Meteorological Research, Publications
and Consultative Services
Introduction : The Hong Kong Observatory was established in 1883. Scientific observations and related investigations formed an essential part of the work programme of the Observatory at its inception. Within a few years of operation, the Observatory published reports on such topics as the "Climate of Hong Kong" and the "Laws of Storms in the Eastern Seas". The latter report by Dr. Doberck, the first Director, was one of the earliest treatises on typhoons in the Far East.
Responding to the needs of the local community, weather forecasting and warning services were inaugurated in 1884 and these activities have since become the focus of the operations of the Observatory. There is a long tradition of research work aimed at the development of a scientifically sound basis for weather forecasting in Hong Kong. Over the years new innovative technologies such as wireless telegraphy, radiosonde, radar, satellite and computer, were applied by the Observatory for improving its weather forecasting and warning services.
In the past few decades, there has been a growing interest in the applications of meteorological information and climatological data for the development of Hong Kong. The Observatory has often been called upon to provide meteorological information and advice for engineering work, such as the siting and design of reservoir catchments, the design and construction of bridges and high-rise buildings and the design of drainage systems. The Observatory now assists and participates in studies on the formulation of design parameters required for a wide range of engineering applications. Special investigations are sometimes organised and carried out by the Observatory itself or in co-operation with other institutions as necessary to meet the requirements of consulting engineers.
Research : The Observatory archives on a routine basis all available data on tropical cyclones occurring in the western North Pacific including the South China Sea. Apart from compiling and publishing climatological information on tropical cyclones, continual efforts are spent in developing and improving forecasting techniques. Objective methods to forecast movements of tropical cyclones are transmitted operationally to other Southeast Asian countries for reference use and verification. Guidance material for forecasters on various aspects of weather associated with tropical cyclones is also developed.
Synoptic weather patterns leading to the arrival of cold surges of the winter monsoon in Hong Kong are examined and typical patterns are identified for the reference of forecasters. Objective algorithms to estimate minimum temperatures in winter are also developed.
The Observatory was one of the first centres outside the United States to receive transmissions from meteorological satellites. Since the mid-sixties, satellite meteorology has been one of the important areas of research in the Observatory. Work is continuing on developing schemes for presenting operationally useful satellite information to forecasters and for archiving the data for research purpose.
The long series of meteorological observations made at the Hong Kong Observatory is used in the computation of design parameters for engineering projects. Statistical studies of extreme wind conditions in typhoons are carried out. Analyses of rain intensities corresponding to various durations are also produced. Work is in progress to extend this type of statistical analyses to cover other locations in Hong Kong.
A large proportion of the Hong Kong population lives near the coast and is subject to the threat of storm surge associated with typhoons. Schemes to forecast storm surge under operational conditions are developed. Computations are also performed for various coastal locations where major engineering projects are planned to determine the possible extreme storm surge values.
In addition to routine meteorological services to civil aviation, the Hong Kong Observatory, in co-operation with the Civil Aviation Department and other concerned parties, develops a windshear and crosswind warning system to detect the occurrence of wind shear and crosswind conditions along the runway and the two approaches to the Hong Kong International Airport. The sensor network consists of nine ground-based anemometers and a wind profiler. Wind information is processed by a minicomputer in real time; and computed wind shear and crosswind are compared with predetermined warning thresholds. Results in the form of graphic display and visual/audio alarms are made available to aviation forecasters and air traffic controllers at frequent intervals to alert them in issuing timely warnings to pilots.
The Hong Kong Observatory receives weather observations made over the South China Sea and its adjacent seas by a fleet of Voluntary Observing Ships. Based on these observations, statistics are compiled to give the climatology of the above sea areas for reference by offshore and marine communities for their planning as well as operational purposes.
Earthquake observations have been made at the Observatory since 1921. Studies on the risk of significant earthquakes occurring in Hong Kong are carried out.
Automatic recording of various meteorological parameters has mainly replaced human observers. These automatic systems are especially advantageous in terms of the convenience they offer for data archival and retrieval for research purposes.
Publications : Results of research work carried out by staff of the Observatory are presented in international conferences, published in scientific journals and printed in departmental technical notes. Summaries of observations are published regularly while reports of major weather events are prepared from time to time.
Several publications of general interest written by staff of the Observatory are available for sale at the Government Publications Sales Centre. Examples are: "Typhoon" (English and Chinese) and "The life history of a tropical cyclone" (English).
Consultative Services : The Observatory provides advice to other government departments on meteorological aspects of major engineering development projects. The department maintains close liaison with the consultants appointed by government and supplies the required data or analysis. The Observatory will generally provide comments on prevailing and extreme wind conditions, hydrometeorology of the study areas, sea waves and storm surge conditions.
The Observatory also provides advice to private enterprises that have a requirement for meteorological information for their engineering projects. A charge will be levied depending on the scope of the services required.
There are occasions when an engineering project demands substantial data collection and analysis efforts by the Observatory over a prolonged period. Special teams are organised to tackle suck tasks. On the provision of these services, the departments or companies concerned are firstly invited to discuss on details such as the proposed methodology, schedule and charges. Work will commence once an agreement is made.