The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming, spoke on the updated weather forecast for this year and updated projection for Hong Kong due to climate change, as well as the Observatory's upcoming initiatives at the press briefing today (17 March). Mr Shun, together with the Controller (TV) of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), Miss Chan Man-kuen, also announced the launch of "Meteorology Series IV".
Mr Shun pointed to the outbreak of abnormal weather events around the world in recent years, such as severe flooding in the United Kingdom, record heat wave in Australia, snowstorms in North America, as clear signs that the impact of climate change was already being felt, and that we would expect more of the same. While 2013 was the sixth warmest year on instrumental records, temperatures in Hong Kong exhibited rather large fluctuations in the past few months. Part of the reasons could be attributed to the occurrence of atmospheric "blocking" situation which, according to some scientific studies, might be related to the melting of Arctic ice due to global warming. The forecasting of such fluctuating weather would inevitably become more challenging in the future.
Regarding the weather outlook for 2014, the Observatory expects the annual rainfall to be normal to below-normal. However, as abnormal weather, including rainstorms, might still occur from time to time, Mr Shun reminded the public to remain vigilant against the threat of inclement weather and take appropriate precautionary measures. For tropical cyclones, considering that sea surface temperature over the central and eastern equatorial Pacific would remain normal in spring, the Observatory expects the number of tropical cyclones coming within 500 km of Hong Kong to be near normal, i.e. between four and seven, and the typhoon season would start in June or later.
Based on the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released last September, the Observatory reviewed the rainfall trends in Hong Kong in the 21st century. "We anticipate an increase in the number of extremely wet years in the 21st century, while the likelihood of drought episodes still remains," Mr Shun said. For details, please refer to http://www.hko.gov.hk/climate_change/ClimProj20140317-e.pdf.
Looking ahead, Mr Shun highlighted the new services to be launched by the Observatory in the coming year, including the extension of weather forecast period from seven days to nine days starting from April, so that the public could take note of weather changes earlier for planning their activities ahead. Subsequent to the launch of the 9-day Weather Forecast, the contents of the mobile app "MyObservatory" will also be enhanced progressively.
For night sky observations, the Observatory together with the Hong Kong Space Museum and the Department of Physics of the University of Hong Kong jointly launched the "Weather Information for Astronomical Observation" webpage (http://www.weather.gov.hk/gts/astronomy/astro_portal.html) today. This webpage is a platform to provide weather information for astronomical observation hot spots in Hong Kong to facilitate stargazers in planning their astronomical observation activities. The webpage contents include the latest all sky image, night sky brightness, weather observation and digital weather forecast at astronomical observation hot spots. The latest star map and other useful astronomical information are also available.
On weather observation, the Observatory continues to enhance and optimise the automatic weather station network, and plans to progressively increase observation sites, including the Kai Tak Runway Park, Yuen Long Park, Sheung Shui and Lamma Island, to provide useful and timely weather information for the public.
To further promote weather observation among the public, especially for the younger generation, the Observatory collaborates with the Department of Applied Physics of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in implementing the "Community Weather Observing Scheme" (CWOS) to encourage the public to undertake first-hand weather observations by uploading and sharing weather photos and observation reports through the website (co-win.org), mobile app (iCWeatherOS) and social network (www.facebook.com/icwos).
Looking back to the 130th anniversary of the Hong Kong Observatory last year, Mr Shun highlighted the well-received exhibition and series of public lectures conducted jointly with the Hong Kong Museum of History. A web-based platform has been set up for re-visiting the exhibits at the website: http://www.weather.gov.hk/hko_virtualtour/vtour/vtour_e/index.html.
The Observatory has made significant progress in enhancing weather information services last year, including the launch of self-produced high definition TV weather programmes "Weather-on-Air" and a weekly educational feature "Cool Met Stuff". The programmes are uploaded to the Observatory webpage, the "MyObservatory" mobile app and YouTube for viewing by the public anytime and anywhere.
Apart from the introduction of new features "My Weather Report" and "Aviation Weather", the mobile app "MyObservatory" has also been extended to more smart phone platforms to facilitate the search for weather information by the public. In fact, the usage of the Observatory's online information service has kept setting new records in recent years. In 2013, page views for "MyObservatory" reached 34 billion, exceeding the usage of the Observatory website for the first time, which shows the increasing trend of public access to weather information through smart phones.
As recognition of the Observatory's continuing effort in delivering new services, Mr Shun reported that the Observatory had won four prizes under the Civil Service Outstanding Service Award Scheme 2013, including the Gold Prize of the Departmental Service Enhancement Award (Small Department Category), and promised that the Observatory would continue to strive for excellence and serve the public with heart.
Lastly, Mr Shun emphasised the importance of public education with a view to enhancing public awareness in disaster prevention and mitigation. The Observatory would collaborate with government departments and stakeholders to promote such awareness through various activities, including:
1. supporting Hongkong Post in the launch of a set of special stamps and first day covers entitled "Weather Phenomena" on 27 March (http://www.hongkongpost.hk/eng/publications/news/2014/20140312a/index.htm);
2. annual Open Day on 29 March (afternoon) and 30 March (http://www.hko.gov.hk/openday/2014/indexe.htm); and
3. the production of a new TV documentary series, "Meteorology Series IV", with RTHK, to be simultaneously broadcast on TVB Jade and RTHK 31 on four consecutive Saturdays at 7.30pm- 8.30pm, starting from 26 April.
Full text of the Director's speech at the press briefing is available at www.weather.gov.hk/dhkovoice/speech20140317e.pdf.