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New Mexico Science

Science, climate, weather and water from a New Mexico perspective

Balloon fans should expect a windy fiesta start

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As Saturday’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta opening day approaches, the National Weather Service keeps hiking up the wind forecast. “We’ve been slowly – grudgingly – bumping it up,” said Kerry Jones, part of the Weather Service’s Albuquerque forecast team. The final call on whether to fly or not is up to Fiesta officials (and balloonists themselves), but the current forecast models being used by the Weather Service team suggest east winds in Albuquerque both Saturday and Sunday as the first real cold front of falls sweeps down New Mexico’s eastern plains.

The current forecast calls for east winds in the 20-plus mile per hour range at the Albuquerque airport during the early morning flying hours with gusts even higher, the result of “gap winds” as the cold front pushes air through Tijeras Canyon and across Albuquerque’s south side. But recall that does not translate to the same winds at the Fiesta field, which is on Albuquerque’s north side:

Gap winds and the balloon fiesta, courtesy National Weather Service

Gap winds and the balloon fiesta, courtesy National Weather Service

If you’re trying to decide which day this weekend to head out and watch balloons, the forecast models suggest it will be less windy on Saturday, Jones said. But I’d recommend keeping an eye on the Weather Service’s forecast page, especially the incredibly useful hourly weather graph, which shows hourly projected wind speed and direction at the airport.

In the long term, the ballooning weather looks better Monday through Wednesday, with the possibility of another front blowing in late next week. We’ll keep an eye on that and update you.

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