Meteorologists are dutifully tracking the location of the Chinese balloon : NPR

Chinese hot air balloons are attracting the attention of meteorologists across the United States.

Larry Mayer/AP

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Larry Mayer/AP

Chinese hot air balloons are attracting the attention of meteorologists across the United States.

Larry Mayer/AP

Meteorologists are tracking an unlikely event in the skies this weekend: a balloon from China is the latest subject of national security concern in the United States.

China’s foreign ministry said the hot air balloon, believed to be being used for research purposes, had accidentally veered off course and is now floating in US airspace. But it’s wreaking havoc on US national security: The Department of Defense claims hot air balloons are actually used for surveillance – and this conflicting view even prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken Right Beijing trip postpone. The presence of the hot air balloon arrived at the time Rising tensions between China and the United States over national security.

The hot air balloon, which US officials began tracking east from Montana, is currently somewhere over the continental United States. And while the officials were talking balloons pose zero threat to civiliansit is attracting attention as meteorologists and amateur observers follow its path.

Meteorologists, storm hunters and fans of strange phenomena have all shared pictures and videos of hot air balloons online. The hashtags #ChineseSpyBalloon and #ChinaBalloon have also garnered attention on Twitter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created a Graphic showing the course of the hot air balloonwhile a meteorologist in Raleigh, NC, shared an illustration showing a hot air balloon rising is expected to fly over North Carolina on Saturday.

The National Weather Service’s regional headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., said hot air balloons could be seen from their office in Pleasant Hill on Friday afternoon.

“We have confirmed that it is not the NWS weather balloon,” it tweeted.

A meteorologist in Salisbury, Md., shared a forecast from NOAA showing the balloon’s expected route over the next 72 hours. Scientist Dan Satterfield said the route could change.

“IF it could be raised and lowered, the track could change quite a bit,” Satterfield tweeted. “It would have to be lowered to the commercial air lanes to change it a lot.”

As U.S. and Chinese officials continue to disagree over the balloon’s purpose and plans for dealing with it, it’s clear that in the meantime, many will be seriously watching the balloon’s progress.


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