VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia Beach man got a surprise when he noticed something hanging from a tree in his backyard.
Click here to subscribe to our email alerts on the latest news
This thing? A National Weather Service (NWS) radiosonde weather balloon.
The small instrument typically weighs less than a pound and is suspended under a large parachute, according to the NWS. They are launched twice a day at several different locations, including Wallops Island.
This balloon, however, probably did not come from there as there were no recent northwesterly winds that would have been needed to carry a balloon from the east coast to Hampton Roads.
According to meteorologist Jeff Edmondson, the balloon was likely launched Wednesday night from Greensboro, North Carolina. The balloon would then have traveled east with the jet stream.
Weather balloons travel at approximately 1,000 feet per minute while transmitting pressure, temperature, relative humidity, and GPS position data every second. They are used for computerized weather forecasting models and weather/climate change research, according to the National Weather Service.
Balloons usually only last about two hours, as they expand as they enter the atmosphere. They will grow as big as a pick-up truck before bursting.
When it bursts, the instrument begins to fall to the ground. A parachute is used to slow it down.
If you find a downed NWS radiosonde, follow the instructions on this website.