Opportunistic sensing with recreational hot-air balloon flights

Evert I.F. De Bruijn*, Fred C. Bosveld, Siebren De Haan, Albert A.M. Holtslag

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We report about a new third-party observation, namely, wind measurements derived from hot-air balloon (HAB) tracks. We first compare the HAB winds with wind measurements from a meteorological tower and a radio acoustic wind profiler, both situated at the topographically flat observatory near Cabauw, the Netherlands. To explore the potential of this new type of wind observation in other topographies, we present an intriguing HAB flight in Austria with a spectacular mountain–valley circulation. Subsequently, we compare the HAB data with a numerical weather prediction (NWP) model during 2011–13 and the standard deviation of the wind speed is 2.3 m s−1. Finally, we show results from a data assimilation feasibility experiment that reveals that HAB wind information can have a positive impact on a hindcasted NWP trajectory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E273-E278
JournalBulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Feb 2021


  • Aircraft observations
  • Data assimilation
  • Europe
  • In situ atmospheric observations
  • Trajectories
  • Turbulence

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