Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Albuquerque Box

While we were looking up the history of Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta, we learned about something really interesting called the "Albuquerque Box." It's a wind/weather pattern that happens because of Albuquerque's geographical position. Basically, for this pattern to occur, you need very dry air, a small/enclosed valley, and a place where daytime warms and nighttime cools are widely disparate.

I'm not an expert on this, but as I understand it, when these conditions are right, the cold nighttime air falls down the mountains/mesas to lower elevations. As the sun comes up and starts to warm the upper air, it creates wind between the air layers that makes a strong air current in one direction (south, in this case). As the cold air moves south and away from the enclosing "walls" of mountain, it warms and moves upward in elevation. Another air current then forms, moving the opposite direction, back toward the enclosed valley. The warmer air then cools again, falls, and joins the other current moving south.

You can see why balloonists would like this phenomenon: when it is present, they can take off from one location (the balloon fiesta park, e.g.), fly at low altitude south for a while, and then, when they wish to return, go up higher to catch the "return trip" wind current right back to where they started!  No chase vehicles necessary. :) Of course, the Albuquerque Box doesn't occur all the time, but it's more common in Fall when the Balloon Fiesta takes place, and when it does occur, it makes for great ballooning, apparently! Interesting, eh?

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