Anyone enthusiastic about hot air ballooning, whether it’s their first flight or their fiftieth, is likely to have experienced disappointment at the hands of unpredictable weather. It breaks our heart when we have to postpone a flight for one of our passengers, but safety comes first. A large part of the reason our balloon flight vouchers are open-dated for 12 months is because hot air ballooning is so dependent on the weather. But why is this?
To explain why hot air ballooning is weather dependent, it’s best if we first understand how hot air balloons fly in the first place. We’ve previously covered this in our how hot air balloons work series, but for the sake of clarity, we will explain the broad principle behind balloon flight below.
The scientific principle behind hot air ballooning is surprisingly simple. Warmer air rises in cooler air. In broad strokes, hot air is lighter than cool air (because it has less mass per unit of volume), meaning that it rises. However, the difference in mass is quite small. One cubic foot of air weighs approximately 28 grams. If that air is heated to 38°C, then it will weigh only around seven grams less.
This is enough to make hot air rise, but is not so large a difference to carry very much with it. That’s why hot air balloons are so big! To lift something as large as a person, let alone two or three, you’re going to need an awful lot of hot air.
Keep in mind what we explained in the previous section. In order to ascend, the air in the balloon needs to be hot. The key being in the name hot air balloon.
In order to keep rising, the burner must keep the air heated, and during this process the top of the hot air balloon reaches almost 100 degrees centigrade. However, what happens if cold rain starts hitting the top?
The air cools down. This means that, if the pilot wants to continue ascending, they have to use the burner a lot more. Not only does this mean expending a large amount of fuel to remain in the air, battling with the weather in this way makes the elevation of the hot air balloon much more difficult to control; and that isn’t safe for anyone.
Once again, recall the principle behind hot air balloon flight. The hot air is lighter than the cold air around it and carries the basket and passengers up into the sky. However, because the difference in mass between cold air and hot air is only slight, a large amount of air, and therefore a large balloon, is needed to ascend.
What that means, is that you effectively have a giant sail in the sky. Something very large and very light will easily catch even moderate winds and be blown significantly off course at a minimum, to say nothing of the pilot and passengers in the basket.
It’s also important to note that too little wind is no good either. Since the hot air balloon is really only capable of ascending and descending, forward momentum is dependent on the wind entirely. If there isn’t any, then the hot air balloon won’t travel anywhere. This may make for a fabulous view over the flight meeting location, but is unlikely to be quite the magical balloon ride you were hoping for.
As great as it would be if the weather in the air could be predicted from the conditions on the ground, it’s simply not the case. Even a calm, clear sunny day on the ground can mean serious winds in the air. That’s why our pilots are always keeping a close eye on the aerial weather conditions to ensure that your flight is the safe, enjoyable experience it should be.
To ensure that your hot air balloon ride is a magical one, we only fly if conditions are good. It’s important for your enjoyment and your safety when you’re in the air with us. These are the optimal weather conditions for hot air ballooning:
Now you understand why we only want to take you on a hot air balloon ride in the perfect weather! Not only will this ensure that your ride is safe, but that it is an enjoyable experience as well.
If you are interested in a booking a balloon ride in: