The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming, spoke on the weather outlook for this year and the Observatory's upcoming initiatives at a press briefing today (March 15).
Mr Shun pointed out that the World Meteorological Organization had ranked 2015 the hottest year globally on record since 1880. The weather in Hong Kong in 2015 was also marked by unusually high temperatures. There were 18 new records related to temperatures (www.hko.gov.hk/wxinfo/pastwx/2015/ywx2015.htm), with the highest average temperature recorded in November since records began. 2016 started with all-time high monthly rainfall in January, more than 10 times the normal value. Temperatures in early January remained above normal, but plummeted in the second half of the month, with temperatures at the Observatory dropping to a minimum of 3.1 degrees on January 24, the coldest day since 1957. Yet, the global average temperatures in January and February 2016 were actually the hottest since records began in 1880. The trend of more extreme weather under the influence of climate change is obvious. The Observatory will spare no efforts in upgrading weather monitoring and forecasting capabilities, enhancing public communication and researching into new methods in forecasting the likelihood of extreme weather events.
Regarding the weather outlook for 2016, the Observatory expects the El Niño to weaken gradually in the coming months, with half chance transitioning to La Niña in latter part of the year. Taking into consideration this trend and various forecast indicators, the Observatory expects the annual rainfall to be normal to above-normal and the number of tropical cyclones coming within 500 km 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, heighten awareness towards disaster preparedness and prepare for the coming rain and typhoon seasons.
On climate change issues, an international agreement was reached at the Paris climate summit in December 2015 (also known as COP21) to limit carbon dioxide emission. However, the emission reduction pledges made by the countries still fall short of what is required to control the global temperature rise to within 2oC (above the pre-industrial level) by the end of this century. Hence, we need to step up our efforts to save energy, conserve resources and reduce greenhouse gas emission. At the same time, we also need to mitigate against the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather, heat waves, drought, sea level rise, etc. The Observatory will actively participate in and support the work of the Steering Committee on Climate Change chaired by the Chief Secretary of Administration. We will also continue to strengthen communication with the public and stakeholders to enhance their awareness and preparedness against climate change and extreme weather.
For weather monitoring, the Observatory enhanced its Internet satellite imagery services today. Update frequency of satellite images covering eastern Asia has increased from once every 30 minutes to once every 10 minutes. High resolution satellite imageries covering southern China and the South China Sea are also provided to show the weather conditions over Hong Kong and its vicinity more clearly. Furthermore, global mosaic satellite imagery and true colour imageries are also made available.
For strengthening the monitoring of tropical cyclones, this year the Observatory will start using the new dropsonde technology on the aircraft of the Government Flying Service to fly into tropical cyclones over the northern part of the South China Sea to collect meteorological data. The dropsonde allows direct measurement of the vertical changes of pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction through the depth of the atmosphere, enhancing the forecasting capability of tropical cyclones.
With the upcoming rain season, the Observatory plans to launch a new version of the Location-specific Lightning Alert Service Webpage in the second quarter of this year for members of the public to monitor thunderstorms activities in the vicinity of their locations. With more selectable outdoor activity sites and geographical information options, the new webpage will be particularly useful for property management and swimming pool operators. The Observatory will also enhance the provision of information on heavy rain to the public, and an alert will be sent via the media and mobile phone apps when localised areas are threatened by intense rain so that those affected could better appreciate the latest situation and be prepared. The Automatic Regional Weather Forecast webpage will also be enhanced later this year to provide thunderstorm nowcast in the next hour covering Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region.
For the provision of weather information services, the Observatory launched on its website today real-time weather photos taken at the Victoria Peak to provide the public and tourists with more weather information on local tourist destinations. The Observatory is also developing a "Hong Kong Weather Information for Tourists" webpage to provide one-stop-shop weather information for tourists' hot spots in Hong Kong to facilitate better planning of visits and trips. The roll-out of the webpage is expected within this year.
For the dissemination channels of weather information, the Observatory will extend the "MyObservatory" app to wearable devices, and an updated version of the "MyObservatory" app for Apple Watch is expected to be launched in mid-year. The Observatory is also planning to introduce later this year the "MetChat for the Day" as gentle reminders to the public on weather, climate and related information through social media platforms and the "MyObservatory" app. The Observatory will also enhance its TV weather service in April, increasing the weather programmes from one to two sessions each morning at about 7am and 8am from Monday to Saturday for people going to school or work to get hold of the latest weather information. The programmes will be broadcast on the TV channels, and disseminated directly to members of the public via the "MyObservatory" app and the Observatory website.
On public education, the upcoming major initiatives this year include:
(1) The annual Open Day of the Hong Kong Observatory will take place on March 19 and 20 under the theme of the World Meteorological Day - "Hotter. Drier. Wetter. Face the Future". The event this year is also one of the highlight events under the "Appreciate Hong Kong" campaign (www.hko.gov.hk/openday/2016/indexe.htm).
(2) To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the "Science in the Public Service (SIPS)" campaign, a roving exhibition on "Climate Change – Our Response" will be held at 10 different venues this year. A series of seminars on the applications of science in support of public services will also be organised.
(3) A revamped climate change webpage is launched today, providing relevant information, latest projection and development related to climate change. A new feature "Do you know..." is added, providing climate change knowledge in layman terms to the public.
(4) An e-book on clouds is planned to be launched in the second quarter of this year to enhance the understanding and interest of the public, especially students and youngsters, on clouds.
Lastly, Mr Shun announced the launch of a new corporate video jointly produced with the Radio Television Hong Kong today, using the core values of the Observatory linked by the seven characters of the word "SCIENCE" (Serve, Care, Innovate, Enthuse, Nurture, Collaborate and Excel) to introduce the development and services of the Observatory to the public (www.hko.gov.hk/abouthko/aboutus.htm).
Mr Shun's speech at the press briefing is available at: http://www.hko.gov.hk/dhkovoice/speech20160315e.pdf