VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia Beach man was surprised when he noticed something hanging from a tree in his backyard.
This thing? A National Weather Service (NWS) radiosonde 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 in several different locations, including on Wallops Island.
That balloon, however, probably didn’t come from there, as there haven’t been any recent northwesterly winds that would have been required 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 move 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 van before they explode.
When it bursts, the instrument begins to fall to the ground. A parachute is used to slow him down.
If you find a fallen NWS radiosonde, follow the instructions website.