|The Hong Kong Observatory announces today (8 December) the commencement of trial operation of the World Weather Information Service (WWIS) website on weather of world cities "www.worldweather.org", developed under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as well as the official operation of the Observatory's special websites viz. "wap.hko.gov.hk" and "wap.weather.gov.hk" to deliver weather information to WAP-enabled mobile phone users.
In an increasingly small world where many people travel, ready-to-use weather information worldwide is a much sought after commodity. People are tempted to search for such information on the Internet and are often bewildered by the diversity of information presented by a wide array of information service providers not related to the meteorological community. It is not unusual to find forecast temperatures from unofficial sources differing by many degrees among themselves. There is a strong need for an authoritative source of official weather information produced by national meteorological services (NMSs) who operate the WMO-regulated worldwide weather observing network.
The HKO has been tasked by the WMO to develop and host two pilot websites on world weather in collaboration with national meteorological services. The WWIS website is intended to provide official weather forecasts of cities all over the world. The other WMO website specialising in severe weather information (SWI) round the world "severe.worldweather.org", also operated by the HKO on behalf of WMO, has already commenced trial operation earlier this year.
"The pilot WWIS website will be implemented in phases," Acting Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Lam Chiu-ying said. "The first phase which delivers climatological information of cities and provides links to the websites of individual NMSs, will start operation today. The next phase will include official forecasts issued by the respective NMS and is expected to start operational trial before the end of 2002."
Mr Lam further said, "The pilot SWI website will provide, as a first step, official forecasts and warnings of tropical cyclones in the western North Pacific issued by NMSs in the region. Up-to-date information on tropical cyclones in the form of advisories and warnings from participating countries are displayed, enabling visitors to the site to gain a better appreciation of the potential impact of tropical cyclones that transcend national boundaries."
In declaring the Observatory's WAP site operational, Mr Lam said, "In response to the increasing demand of mobile phone users for weather information and noting that new mobile phones have the capability to access the Internet, the WAP sites of the Observatory will give the public a new means to obtain weather information while on the move". These sites will provide local regional weather information, weather forecasts, warnings, tropical cyclone information, and UV index as well as weather information for other cities.
The latest developments mark the end of a year of numerous enhancements to the main HKO website. For example, 3-dimensinal radar imageries have been supplied since May and an audio web page for the visually impaired was launched in July. To handle the surge of network traffic in inclement weather, the Observatory's web server was enhanced in July to handle traffic six times the previous capacity. It enabled the Observatory to handle 2 million page hits on the day when Typhoon Yutu passed close to Hong Kong.
Mr Lam presented at a ceremony today prizes to winners of the "Weather Family Figures" design competition. It was an intense competition with more than 500 entries. The champion Mr KO Sum-yuen said the winning design was based on cute and adorable children characters. Their bona fide characteristics symbolise issuance of authentic weather reports by the Observatory and bring out the caring image of the Observatory. The winning design will be featured in the Observatory's TV weather programmes and its websites, to help convey weather information and related advisory messages.
On the same occasion, the Hong Kong Observatory and Radio Television Hong Kong announced the production of a TV documentary on weather hazards called the "Meteorological Series". "The series will talk about weather especially its relationship with the livelihood of human beings. The objective is to promote public awareness and preparedness regarding natural disasters," Mr Lam said. The series will be broadcast on ATV local channel every Friday at 7 p.m. starting 14 December 2001 for 6 weeks.
For further information, please contact Dr W T Wong, Senior Scientific Officer of the Hong Kong Observatory (tel: 2926 8360, fax: 2375 2645, email: firstname.lastname@example.org) or the World Meteorological Organization:
Ms. Mo Lagarde
Information and Public Affairs
World Meteorological Organization
7, bis, Avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 2
Tel: (41 22) 730 83 15
Fax: (4122) 730 80 27