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  • Director of Hong Kong Observatory highlights Observatory’s latest developments

  • Thursday, 23rd March 2017

The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO), Mr Shun Chi-ming, today (March 23) elaborated on the weather outlook of Hong Kong for this year and the Observatory’s upcoming initiatives at a press briefing on World Meteorological Day (WMD). Mr Shun, together with the Acting Deputy Director of Broadcasting (Programmes), Mr Chan Yiu-wah, also announced the launch of the “Joint collection campaign of historical typhoon information” and the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) Radio 1 programme “Climate Watcher”.

Mr Shun pointed out that the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) ranked 2016 as the hottest year globally on record, with the average global annual temperature about 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels, breaking the record for three consecutive years. The average global sea surface temperature in 2016 was also a record high. According to the latest information, the average sea ice extents in the Arctic and the Antarctic were the lowest on satellite record in January and February 2017.

Locally, the winter of 2016-17 was one of the warmest since records began in 1884, with the mean temperature from December to February reaching 18.4 degrees, on par with the winter in 1998-99. Looking back on 2016, Hong Kong was warmer with more rain than usual. The annual mean temperature of 23.6 degrees was 0.3 degrees higher than normal, the seventh warmest on record. With a record-breaking autumn rainfall of 1,078.8 millimetres, the annual total rainfall was 3,026.8 millimetres, about 26 per cent above normal and the ninth highest on record.

Mr Shun reiterated that climate change and its effects are obvious. To promote public understanding on climate change and enhance preparedness to meet climate change challenges, the Observatory is collaborating with RTHK to produce the radio programme “Climate Watcher”, with a total of 13 episodes on climate change themes to be broadcast every Saturday starting from April 1 on RTHK Radio 1. The programme’s guest speakers include the Observatory’s staff, experts and people from various sectors (app4.rthk.hk/apps/mine/index.php?id=6973).

Regarding the annual outlook of Hong Kong for 2017, the Observatory expects normal to below-normal annual rainfall, and four to seven tropical cyclones coming within 500 kilometres of Hong Kong, which is near normal. The chance for the annual mean temperature in 2017 to reach the warmest top 10 in records is about 70 per cent. Although the annual rainfall is expected to be normal to below-normal, there are still chances that Hong Kong would be affected by heavy rain. Members of the public are reminded to be prepared for the coming rain and typhoon seasons in a timely manner.

To promote the theme of the WMD, “Understanding Clouds”, Mr Shun introduced the new web-based version of the “International Cloud Atlas” (ICA) officially launched today, which was developed by the HKO on behalf of the WMO (www.wmocloudatlas.org). The new version of the ICA features enriched content with the inclusion of some new cloud types. In particular, nearly 60 photos taken by members of the public in Hong Kong and the Observatory’s staff have been selected for incorporation into the new version of the ICA, notably four photos of new cloud types, namely Flammagenitus, Cavum (two photos) and Homomutatus. The Secretary-General of the WMO, Professor Petteri Taalas, expressed sincere thanks to the HKO for hosting a web-based platform to collect outstanding photos from all over the world and developing the new web-based ICA. To further promote cloud observation knowledge to kids and students, the Observatory will launch an electronic version of a cloud book named “Cloud Appreciation by Dr Tin” in the second quarter. Apart from introducing various cloud types, it also contains interesting interactive games.

On weather forecasting services, in view of public interest and increasing online speculation surrounding weather forecasts which are more than one week in advance, the Observatory will launch the trial version of “Extended outlook” in one to two months’ time to provide the probability forecasts of daily minimum temperature for the next two weeks, with probability forecasts of maximum temperature, wind speed and pressure being launched in phases in the future. Trial probability forecasts of tropical cyclone tracks will also be launched during the typhoon season this year. To assist the public in monitoring thunderstorm threats and planning outdoor activities, the Observatory will launch “Location specific lightning nowcast” on its website tomorrow (March 24). This service will subsequently be added to the “MyObservatory” app later this year.

For weather monitoring, the Observatory enhanced its Internet satellite imagery services on March 21 with additional high-resolution satellite imageries covering the coast of Guangdong (www.hko.gov.hk/wxinfo/intersat/satellite/sate.htm). In addition, the Observatory will launch real-time weather photos taken at Clear Water Bay around mid-year this year to facilitate the monitoring of weather conditions such as rain and sea fog over the coastal waters in the southeastern part of Hong Kong. To strengthen the monitoring and warning of tropical cyclones, the Observatory joined forces with Government Flying Service to introduce a dropsonde system which can collect three-dimensional meteorological data of tropical cyclones over the South China Sea when conditions allow.

For the online weather services, with the popularity of social media and its importance in public communications, the Observatory plans to officially launch a Facebook page by early 2018 to enhance weather services and public communication. In addition, the World Weather Information Service website operated by the Observatory on behalf of the WMO will be enhanced mid-year this year to include current weather information of world cities. The associated “MyWorldWeather” mobile app will also be enhanced at the same time.

To further improve online services, the Observatory will enhance the content and design of its mobile website later this year.

As 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the introduction of numbered typhoon signals in Hong Kong, the Observatory will organise a series of publicity events to promote public understanding of typhoon-related hazards and enhance disaster prevention awareness. Details are as follows:

a) Supporting Hongkong Post in the launch of a set of special stamps and first day covers entitled “100 Years of Numbered Typhoon Signals” on June 13 (www.hko.gov.hk/100YearsTCSignals/stamp.htm);
b) Partnering with RTHK to jointly launch a campaign to collect historical typhoon information from the public (including photos, videos, audio recordings and articles) (www.hko.gov.hk/100YearsTCSignals/collection.htm);
c) Producing a special series of “Cool Met Stuff” public education videos on typhoons; and
d) Arranging guided tours to Cheung Chau Signal Station, the last signal station hoisting tropical cyclone signals.

Lastly, Mr Shun announced that the annual open days of the HKO will take place on March 25 and 26. Members of the public are welcome to view the exhibits prepared under this year’s WMD theme of “Understanding Clouds” (www.hko.gov.hk/openday/2017/indexe.htm).

Mr Shun’s speech at the press briefing is available at www.hko.gov.hk/dhkovoice/speech20170323e.pdf.

Figure 1
Figure 1  The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming (centre), together with the four Assistant Directors, introduces the latest developments of the Hong Kong Observatory, at the press briefing on the World Meteorological Day today (March 23).
Figure 2
Figure 2  The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming introduces the new “International Cloud Atlas”  at the press briefing on the World Meteorological Day today (March 23).
Figure 3
Figure 3   Four photos of new cloud types submitted by Hong Kong and incorporated into the new edition of the International Cloud Atlas.
Figure 4
Figure 4  The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming (left) and the Acting Deputy Director of Broadcasting (Programmes), Mr Chan Yiu-wah (right), officiate at the launch ceremony of “Joint collection campaign of historical typhoon information” and Radio Television Hong Kong Radio 1 programme “Climate Watcher” during the press briefing on the World Meteorological Day today (March 23).
Figure 5
Figure 5  The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Shun Chi-ming (3rd left), the Acting Deputy Director of Broadcasting (Programmes), Mr Chan Yiu-wah (4th left), Head of Radio & Corporate Programming RTHK Radio 1, Mr HO Chung Yan (1st left), Deputy Head of Radio & Corporate Programming RTHK Radio 1, Ms Melissa Cheung (2nd right), Senior Scientific Officer, Mr Lee Sai ming (1st right), Programme hosts, Ms Icy Wong (2nd left) and Mr Tony Woo (3rd right) photographed at the launch ceremony of programme “Climate Watcher”.