Local pilot explains ‘Albuquerque Box’ phenomenon

Balloon Fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE)-  Albuquerque is the perfect place for the Balloon Fiesta every year because of the ideal weather. It’s known as the Albuquerque Box.

Pilot Mike Bertetto says the city’s unique wind pattern causes hot air balloons to make the shape of a box upon mass ascension. “The morning drainage follows the river and the ground winds will follow the river down southward through Albuquerque and as the pilots raise up 500 to 1,000 feet, you’ll catch a northern wind back,” Bertetto says.

Meteorologist Mark Ronchetti explains that the Albuquerque Box starts “in the northern mountains with the cool evening and night time air settling along the valley floor. That slides towards Albuquerque along the Rio Grande Valley and that is factor number one that ends up being a very big deal for us because the surface flow from the north to the south is the first component we need for the Albuquerque Box.”

Meteorologist Mark Ronchetti also says “component number two winds above this coming out of the south and those two actually work together because each morning as the balloons get ready to take off those northerly winds push the balloons towards the South Valley. Then, as the balloons rise up those southerly winds, they go back to the north.”

Bertetto says the Albuquerque Box helps chase crews track balloons and help create impressive views during the Balloon Fiesta and almost any other day of the week. “Nothing is quite as unique as Albuquerque. It’s pretty unique here. It’s like 320 days a year we could fly balloons,” said Bertetto.

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