The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming, spoke on the weather outlook for this year and the latest climate change projection, as well as the Observatory's upcoming initiatives at a press briefing today (March 23).
Mr Shun pointed out that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) had ranked 2014 the hottest year on record since 1880, which is also the consequence of global warming. Locally, the weather in Hong Kong in 2014 was also marked by unusually high temperatures in summer and autumn. The mean temperature from June to November 2014 recorded at the Observatory (27.6 degrees) was the highest for the same period since record began in 1884. Amid the global warming background, high temperature records in Hong Kong may become easier to be broken in the future. With heat waves and hot spells likely to become more frequent, Mr Shun reminded members of the public to be more aware of the impact of hot weather, and pay attention to the Very Hot Weather Warning and the Hot Weather Special Advisory launched last year for taking the appropriate precautionary measures.
Apart from the warming trend, the occurrence of extreme weather events will likely increase due to global warming. In support of disaster mitigation initiatives, the Observatory has recently produced a short video on the threats of typhoon-related hazards (Note). The video has been shown at the Third United Nation World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan in mid-March.
On climate change impacts, based on the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Observatory has reviewed and updated the impacts to Hong Kong in terms of sea level rise and extreme temperatures in the 21st century. Under the high greenhouse gas emission scenario, the sea level is expected to rise by 0.63 to 1.07 m by the end of this century (2081-2100) when compared to the average sea level in 1986-2005. With the elevated sea level, the risk of typhoon-generated storm surges affecting Hong Kong will be enhanced. As regards extreme temperatures, the number of hot nights and very hot days will increase dramatically in the 21st century while the number of cold days will decrease significantly. "Climate change is here and now. Positive actions should be taken without any further delay," Mr Shun said.
Regarding the weather outlook for 2015, the Observatory expects the annual rainfall to be normal to below-normal and the number of tropical cyclones coming within 500km of Hong Kong to be near normal, i.e. between four and seven, with the first tropical cyclone in the season expected to come in June or later. Mr Shun reminded the public to remain vigilant against the threat of inclement weather and highlighted that two new Announcements in the Public Interest will be launched later this year on "thunderstorms" and "tropical cyclone swells" to raise public awareness.
Mr Shun highlighted the Climatological Information Services webpage (http://www.hko.gov.hk/cis/climat_e.htm) updated today. It provides one-stop-shop online access to climate data of Hong Kong in the past 130 years, the latest climate news and educational resources on climate subjects. With improved user interface and enhanced features, a whole range of climate information and statistics can be readily accessed by public and users in different sectors.
For weather forecast and warning services, with the advancement in weather prediction technology, the accuracy of forecasts has been improving gradually. Following the launch of the well-received 9-day weather forecast in April 2014, the Observatory extended the "Automatic Regional Weather Forecast" from seven days to nine days in late 2014. Mr Shun announced that the Automatic Regional Weather Forecast service will be further enhanced this year, providing a one-stop-shop portal for easy viewing of hourly weather forecasts at different locations in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region for the next nine days, as well as rainfall nowcast in the next two hours. These regional nine-day weather forecasts will be extended to the mobile app "MyObservatory" later in the year. For tropical cyclone forecast, the accuracy of the Observatory's track forecast has improved in recent years. In particular, the average accuracy of the fifth-day forecast based on objective verification is now around some 400 kilometers, which is comparable to that for the third-day forecast a decade ago. The Observatory will extend the tropical cyclone forecast track from three days to five days ahead during the coming tropical cyclone season. Mr Shun however emphasised, "Since the tracks of some tropical cyclones could be rather changeable, the error of the 5-day forecast could be rather large at times. We will highlight to the public about the uncertainties of the forecasts on the webpage providing the extended forecast."
The Observatory is also revamping the front page of the Observatory's website, with a view to providing the public with at-a-glance weather information relevant to the underlying weather scenario. Adopting a brand new design interface, the new webpage will automatically consolidate weather information pertaining to tropical cyclone or rainstorm when such weather is expected to affect Hong Kong. Later this year, a new one-stop service hub integrating essential regional weather information on a Geographic Information System (GIS) platform will be launched for convenient browsing by the public.
For weather monitoring, the Observatory continues to adopt state-of-the-art technologies for comprehensive observation. Apart from the on-going effort to enhance the automatic weather station network with more observation sites, including the launch of the Yuen Long Park station recently, a new Terminal Doppler Weather Radar station at Brothers Point will operate shortly for detecting windshear and thus assuring aviation safety. At the same time, the Observatory has also completed installing a new-generation dual-polarisation Doppler weather radar at Tate's Cairn which will start operation in April. With data collection and analysis, it is expected that the capability in detecting hails and estimating rainfall amount would be enhanced.
For upper-air monitoring, the Observatory has recently acquired a portable upper-air sounding system. The system can be easily deployed to different locations or even on ships, thus enhancing the mobility and the application of sounding work.
For global weather monitoring, the Observatory launched today a new version of its satellite webpage (http://www.hko.gov.hk/wxinfo/intersat/satellite/sate.htm). Apart from adding large area satellite imageries to cover regions other than Asia, GIS function has also been included to improve user experience and enable users to retrieve more useful information.
To promote weather and cloud observations among the public, the Observatory plans to launch a thematic webpage "Weather Information for Outdoor Photography" this year to encourage and facilitate the public to undertake first-hand weather observations and share their weather photos. Weather information specifically tailored for weather photographers along with weather and cloud photos will be provided through the webpage as a one-stop-shop to facilitate photographers in planning their observation activities.
Lastly, Mr Shun emphasised the importance of public education in promoting meteorological knowledge. To celebrate the theme of the World Meteorological Day today - "Climate Knowledge for Climate Action", the Observatory will carry out a series of public outreach activities to enhance public awareness and preparedness on weather and climate impact, including:
a) publishing a pamphlet on the "Hong Kong in a Warming World" to raise public awareness on climate change and its impact on Hong Kong (http://www.weather.gov.hk/climate_change/climate_change_e.pdf).
b) launching a mobile version of the "Education Resources" webpage to facilitate access by mobile users, with interesting online quiz games to promote public interest and knowledge on meteorology and climate change (http://m.weather.gov.hk/education/m_edu_e.htm);
c) organising "Weather Observation Competition 2015" jointly with Ho Koon Nature Education cum Astronomical Centre, the Hong Kong Meteorological Society and the Community Weather Information Network to consolidate students' knowledge on weather observation through creative activities;
d) organising "Sea Level Measurement Device Design Competition" jointly with the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Meteorological Society to enhance students' awareness on climate change issues (http://i.cs.hku.hk/~sealevel/Index-English.php); and
e) organising a public talk with the theme "Climate Knowledge for Climate Action" in co-operation with the Hong Kong Institution of Engineering and Technology and China Light and Power Ltd.
The annual Open Day of the Hong Kong Observatory Headquarters will take place on the afternoon of March 28 and the day of March 29. The public are welcome to join (http://www.hko.gov.hk/openday/2015/indexe.htm).
Mr Shun's speech at the press briefing is available at : www.weather.gov.hk/dhkovoice/speech20150323e.pdf
Note: The short video produced by the Observatory on the threats of typhoon-related hazards can be viewed at (available only in English) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v5f8GW_Mnc
Fig. 1 The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming (centre), today (March 23) introduces the latest developments of the Hong Kong Observatory.
Fig. 2 Mr Shun introduces the new version of the satellite webpage.
Fig. 3 Mr Shun (second left) introduces the new pamphlet on "Hong Kong in a Warming World".