Each year, people travel to hot air balloon festivals to see giant, colorful balloons floating up into the sky. Some people even take a ride.
“Just being up in the air in a balloon is so different than anything else,” Jason Jones says. “It’s just very peaceful.”
Jones is with the Balloon Federation of America, and he owns a ballooning company near Kansas City.
He says the basic science behind ballooning is simple. Warmer air is less dense than cooler air, so it rises.
“It’s literally just heating the inside air of the balloon hotter than the ambient temperature to get the balloon to lift,” he says.
So on warmer days, the air inside the balloon has to be heated even more. That means running the balloon’s burner more, and on an already hot day, the heat it throws off can make passengers uncomfortable.
And when it’s really hot out, the heat needed to take off and fly can even damage the balloon.
“We start to cancel flights if we believe it’s going to be 95 degrees or hotter at flight time,” Jones says.
Two years ago, a heat wave forced all the balloons to stay grounded during a Michigan festival.
And as the climate warms, extreme heat is growing more common in many regions. So there could be more hot days when balloons must stay deflated on the ground, instead of rising skyward.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media