Around 90 meteorological, hydrological and disaster reduction experts in the region gather in Hong Kong to take part in the 45th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)/World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Typhoon Committee from today (29 January) to 1 February.
The Session, hosted by the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO), will review and discuss collaboration on regional activities in reducing loss of lives and damages caused by tropical cyclones. The Director of the HKO, Mr Shun Chi-ming, was elected the Chairperson of the Typhoon Committee for 2013 in the Session today.
The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So; the Chairperson of the Typhoon Committee for 2012 and the Deputy Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration, Ms Jiao Meiyan; the Chief of Tropical Cyclone Programme Division of the World Meteorological Organization, Mr Koji Kuroiwa; the Director of Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division of UNESCAP, Dr Shamika Sirimanne; the Director of the HKO, Mr Shun Chi-ming; and the Secretary of the Typhoon Committee, Mr Olavo Rasquinho, officiated at the opening ceremony today.
Delivering her speech in the opening ceremony of the Session, Ms Jiao described the year 2012 as a busy year in terms of typhoon activity.
"In China, six typhoons packed with winds exceeding force 12 hit 18 provinces within one month, a historical record of the same period. Bopha, the strongest and deadliest storm that hit the Philippines this year led to more than 1,000 deaths and affected millions of people. Sanba, the most powerful typhoon in the decade lashed the Korean Peninsula, leaving power down, houses destroyed and transport interrupted.
"This reminds us the importance of the work of the Typhoon Committee - to minimise the loss of lives and material damages caused by typhoons in Asia through planning and implementation of required measures," Ms Jiao said.
Also speaking in the ceremony, Mr Shun noted that Hong Kong last hosted the annual Session in 1997.
"Hosting this important international conference in Hong Kong in 2013 has special meaning to the Hong Kong Observatory as it kicks off a series of celebration activities of the 130th anniversary of the Observatory. Established in 1883, the Observatory has a long history in regional and international cooperation in relation to tropical cyclones.
"As early as 1930, the Observatory hosted the first Conference of Directors of Far Eastern Meteorological Services which concluded with a set of signals and symbols for use in issuing tropical cyclone warnings. Then in 1934, the Director of the then Royal Observatory of Hong Kong, together with the Director of the Shanghai Xujiahui Observatory, went to the Philippines and, in collaboration with the meteorological department in Manila, established regional standard procedures for issuance of tropical cyclone warnings.
"To inherit this historical mission, standardisation of tropical cyclone warnings remains one of the initiatives being actively promoted internationally by the Hong Kong Observatory today," Mr Shun said.
In the opening ceremony, Mr So presented the 2012 Dr Roman L Kintanar Award to the Government Flying Service (GFS) in recognition of their commitment and outstanding work in implementing the Meteorological Data Collection Programme for Tropical Cyclones as well as contribution towards greater protection of people against weather hazards.
Fixed wing aircrafts of the GFS equipped with meteorological sensors of the HKO flew in special missions into tropical cyclones over the South China Sea in 2011 and 2012 to collect very useful meteorological information to enhance tropical cyclone forecast and warning operations.
The Controller of the GFS, Caption Michael Chan said: "We are proud to work with the Hong Kong Observatory in the tropical cyclone surveillance efforts. When people in the region were busy looking for shelters and protection, our crews braved the difficult flying conditions in the storm. The success of the flights depends on the high level of knowledge and expertise of the crews. They have to fly the required flight paths and avoid severe weather at the same time. Valuable meteorological data collected will enable more accurate weather forecast and thus minimise the loss of lives and properties."
The Dr Roman L Kintanar Award is presented every year to institutes and organisations in recognition of their dedicated effort in mitigating the impact and risks of disasters caused by tropical cyclones.
The Typhoon Committee Community Weather Information Network Project was also officially launched in the opening ceremony today. The Project is conducted under the lead of the HKO, in cooperation with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), with the aim to raise community awareness towards weather and climate through hands-on educational activities in running weather stations in participating Members of the Typhoon Committee. Community weather stations have recently been installed at schools in the Philippines and Guam, the USA. The weather observation data from these stations are available on the internet (http://www.icowin.org).
The Typhoon Committee Community Weather Information Network is an extension of the award-winning Community Weather Information Network in Hong Kong. The latter, with current membership of over 100, was established jointly by the HKO, the Department of Applied Physics of the PolyU and the Hong Kong Joint-school Meteorological Association in 2007.
The Typhoon Committee is under auspices of the UNESCAP and the WMO. It comprises 14 Members: Cambodia; China; Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Hong Kong, China; Japan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Macao, China; Malaysia; the Philippines; Republic of Korea; Singapore; Thailand; Socialist Republic of Vietnam; and the USA. The Committee aims to integrate and enhance regional activities between Members within an international framework to reduce the loss of lives and damages caused by tropical cyclones.
(From left) Administrator of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Dr Nathaniel Servando; the Secretary of the Typhoon Committee, Mr Olavo Rasquinho; the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming; the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So; the Chairperson of the Typhoon Committee for 2012 and the Deputy Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration, Ms Jiao Meiyan; Associate Professor of Department of Applied Physics, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Dr Ong Chung Wo; and Regional Director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USA, Mr Jeff Ladouce, officiate at the launching ceremony of the Typhoon Committee Community Weather Information Network Project.