Grand Rapids, MI (WZZM) - With all the hot air balloons taking to the skies this weekend in Battle Creek, what is the science behind the pastime?
Doug Mills of Sky High Hot Air Balloons explains about thermals and turbulence.
"Thermals are like mini-tornadoes," said Mills, who's been flying hot air balloons with his wife since the 70s. Mills says thermals are, "caused by the heat of the sun. So, they're out there spinning around. In Michigan, don't have a lot of them; but if there's a dark field or a huge black parking lot, this can put off a heat thermal and we try to fly in the evening after the thermals have quit because they do cause uncontrolled flying and spin the balloon around."
Even though it might look like a beautiful, quiet day outside, pockets of moving air are located all over the earth. Some of those pockets can be quite violent.
Turbulent air is related to thermals. Any time an airplane encounters turbulence, it's the same concept. Air is constantly moving over the surface of the earth. Those winds typically become stronger with height.
Just like pilots, balloonists pay attention to the weather and aviation reports.
When conditions are not safe, the balloons stay grounded.
With those risks in mind, enthusiasts say nothing compares to sailing silently above the earth.