Community Weather Information Network wins Royal Meteorological Society award
The evening of June 29 (UK time), 2011 was a great time for the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) and the Department of Applied Physics of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). On behalf of the Community Weather Information Network (Co-WIN), the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming, and the Head of the Department of Applied Physics of PolyU, Professor Helen Chan-Wong Lai-wa, jointly received the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS)'s prestigious "2010 Vaisala Award" at the dinner of RMetS's Annual General Meeting held in Exeter, UK (Figure 1).
The RMetS is a renowned meteorological society with a long and remarkable history. Over the years, it has attracted top meteorologists all over the world to publish papers in its journals and magazines. The RMetS presents awards to outstanding individuals and organisations every year in recognition of their contributions to meteorology. The Vaisala Award is a new award presented biennially to professionals and amateurs alike for their contributions to the field of weather observation and instrumentation. Co-WIN has the honour of being the first organization to receive this award (Figure 2), reflecting the recognition of the international community for the effort of the HKO and PolyU in promoting weather and climate education in the community through establishing Co-WIN.
The establishment of Co-WIN
That Co-WIN won the highly competitive Vaisala Award was the result of the dedication and collaborative effort of the various partners concerned. The idea of establishing Co-WIN stemmed from the creativity and innovation of two former directors of the Observatory, Mr Lam Chiu-ying and Dr Lee Boon-ying. Since 2000, more and more weather enthusiasts and schools began to set up their automatic weather stations and posted the weather information on the Internet, but at the same time posing problems related to the quality and availability of the data from these stations. This concurred with a growing demand for more weather information from the public, and in particular, information from weather stations in their immediate neighbourhood. Since 2005, HKO started to step up its efforts to organize a weather information network through close cooperation with schools and various local communities. The aim of the network is to gather weather information from automatic weather stations of its school and community members, carry out data quality assurance and subsequently disseminate the weather information to the public on the Internet. Through this initiative, HKO hopes to provide more weather information with a wider coverage in Hong Kong, thus creating a win-win situation for all partners - the gist of the acronym of the "Community Weather Information Network", Co-WIN. The opportunity to collaborate with the Department of Applied Physics of PolyU arose when, at about the same time, it planned to send their students to primary and secondary schools to help promote science education and enhance their inter-personal skills. Sharing the same vision, the HKO and PolyU in January 2007 signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation to organise activities to promote weather education in Hong Kong. After more than a year of preparation and close cooperation with schools and community members, Co-WIN was officially launched at the HKO Headquarters on 24 August 2007 (Figure 3). At that time, there were 35 members, including primary and secondary schools as well as the Ho Koon Nature Education cum Astronomical Centre.
The Development of Co-WIN
In the early days of Co-WIN, temperature, relative humidity, wind direction, wind speed, rainfall and sea level pressure information from weather stations of its members were provided on the Co-WIN website. In summer 2008, Co-WIN implemented a number of pilot research projects, including activities to measure UV index and conduct urban heat island studies in the vicinity of school campuses. On 5 November 2008, Co-WIN officially launched the "Community Ultraviolet Information Network" to provide UV Indices from some of its members. Other weather information, such as solar radiation, was subsequently added on the website.
On 18 August 2008, the Kwai Chung Dr. Lam Chik Suen Multi-service Centre for the Elderly became the first elderly centre to join the Co-WIN. In November 2009, the HKO and the Centre jointly organized an outdoor weather observation activity, opening a new chapter for the elders to be trained to carry out weather observations (Figure 4). On 8 March 2010, former director of HKO, Dr Lee Boon-ying officiated at the opening ceremony of the Centre's "Automatic Weather Station for the Elders". The weather station, set up on the rooftop of the Centre, became the first automatic weather station maintained by the elders in Hong Kong (Figure 5). The Centre also formed an "Interest Group on Digital Weather". The group members have since actively participated and assisted in a number of activities organized by Co-WIN for promoting weather education.
In 2009, in order to arouse members' interests, Co-WIN continued to assist members in carrying out investigative studies such as research on urban heat island effect in the vicinity of campuses (Figure 6). On 21 November 2009, Co-WIN celebrated its second anniversary, and replaced its former name "Hong Kong Community Weather Information Network" (HK Co-WIN) by "Community Weather Information Network" (Co-WIN) to properly reflect its vision to grow both locally and internationally. On the same day, Co-WIN officially launched the activity entitled "Collaborative Efforts for Better Appreciation of Weather in the Community" to encourage members to continue their participation in investigative studies. Primary and secondary school students as well as the elders were also invited to share their experience in carrying out weather related studies in their communities (Figure 7). To motivate members to take initiative in maintaining their automatic weather stations, real-time wind direction and wind speed information recorded at the Hong Kong Sea School, a Co-WIN member, have been added to the HKO official weather information website for the first time on 28 December 2010. The cooperation of Co-WIN and HKO has been taken to a new level, thus enabling more regional weather information to be provided to the public.
To enhance members' solidarity and sense of belonging, the Co-WIN Executive Committee was formed at the Co-WIN Annual General Meeting held on 7 November 2009. The Executive Committee, composing of representatives from seven Co-WIN members, the Department of Applied Physics of PolyU and the HKO, will take up the responsibility of steering the future development of Co-WIN.
Since its naissance, Co-WIN has been actively exploring the use of meteorological data for the development of educational packages and online educational resources to meet the learning needs of the various disciplines of the New High School Curriculum. On 13 November 2010, an "Online Educational Resources" platform was launched at the third anniversary of Co-WIN (Figure 8). In the afternoon of the same day, Co-WIN held a warm-up competition for investigative studies under the theme "Collaborative Efforts for Better Appreciation of Weather in the Community". Some of the reports presented by students in the competition have also been incorporated in Co-WIN's "Online Educational Resources" platform.
The number of Co-WIN members has nearly tripled since it was established in August 2007, from 35 to over 98 (up to 30 June 2011). Co-WIN members now span a wide spectrum of the community, ranging from primary and secondary schools, tertiary institutes, an elderly centre, the Scout Association of Hong Kong, to several nature education centres, indicating that Co-WIN has been well received by the community. Looking ahead, Co-WIN will continue to promote weather and climate education in the community. New educational packages and online educational resources will be developed to suit the evolving curriculum. Co-WIN will take the initiative to share its experience and technology with other parts of the world, and assist other countries in establishing their own community weather information networks and automatic weather stations.
More than a century has passed since the establishment of the HKO, the department has evolved in pace with the increasing demands and expectations of the Hong Kong community. From time to time, new technologies were exploited and new services were introduced. Our prime objective remains the same - to mitigate casualties and damages due to inclement weather. The Observatory's efforts must go hand in hand with the public's awareness in weather, climate, as well as disaster prevention and mitigation. In this regard, Co-WIN plays a pivotal role in furthering public weather education in Hong Kong.
Tam Kwong Hung and Chan Siu Wai
Figure 3 Official opening of Co-WIN at the Observatory Headquarters on 24 August 2007.
Figure 4 Elders carrying out outdoor weather observations.
Figure 5 Former Observatory Director, Dr. B.Y. Lee (middle), Director of the elderly centre,
Mrs. Yuk Fung Yin King (2nd right), Dr. C.W. Ong of the Department of Applied
Physics of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (2nd left) and representatives
of the elders officiated at the opening ceremony of "Automatic Weather
Station for the Elders"
Figure 6 Students carrying out urban heat island studies near their campuses.
Figure 7 Students and the elders sharing their experiences in conducting weather-related
research activities in their communities.
Figure 8 Official opening of Co-WIN's "Online Educational Resources" platform on 13 November 2010.