VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — One Virginia Beach man got a surprise when he noticed something hanging from a tree in his backyard.
That thing? A radiosonde weather balloon from the National Weather Service (NWS).
The small instrument typically weighs less than a pound and is suspended below a large parachute, according to the NWS. They are launched twice a day in several different locations, including on Wallops Island.
This balloon, however, likely did not come from there since there have not been any recent northwest winds that would be required to carry a balloon from the Eastern Shore to Hampton Roads.
According to Meteorologist Jeff Edmondson, the balloon likely launched on Wednesday night from Greensboro, North Carolina. The balloon would have then traveled east with the jet stream.
Weather balloons travel about 1,000 feet per minute all while transmitting pressure, temperature, relative humidity and GPS position data each second. They are used for computer-based weather prediction models and weather/climate change research, according to the National Weather Service.
The balloons will typically only last about two hours because they expand the higher they get into the atmosphere. They will get as large as a pickup truck before popping.
When it pops, the instrument starts to fall to the ground. A parachute is used to slow it down.
If you find a fallen NWS radiosonde, follow the instructions on this website.