|Director of the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO), Dr Lam Hung-kwan urged the public to take early precautionary measures against typhoon and rainstorms in a press conference on the "World Meteorological Day" today (March 22). Dr Lam also highlighted the improvements and new services that the HKO introduced for the coming rainy and typhoon seasons in 2002.
Over 110 million pages of information were retrieved from the HKO website in 2001. During the passage of typhoons in 2001, members of the public had encountered network congestion when retrieving weather information from the HKO website. The HKO has now enhanced the capacity of its website to meet a demand of up to 10 000 simultaneous requests.
To enable the public to appreciate the wind conditions around Hong Kong, wind distribution charts are now available at the HKO website for retrieval starting today. Aviation weather reports and aerodrome forecasts at the Hong Kong International Airport are also available at the HKO website for public information.
The HKO has made arrangements for the Airport Authority to obtain the latest weather information through computer links. Should severe weather seriously affect the operation of the airport, the HKO will step up the liaison with the Authority to enable it to have better appreciation of the changes in the weather condition.
Dr Lam said, "The decommissioning of the last tropical cyclone signal station at the end of 2001 symbolized the end of the era of simple signals." Dr Lam remarked that warning signals alone were insufficient to decide on the most appropriate precautionary measures. He urged the public to take note of the prevailing wind conditions in different regions and the latest information on tropical cyclones issued by the HKO before deciding on what actions to take. The HKO has published a new leaflet on tropical cyclone warning signals for free distribution with a view to draw the attention to regional weather differences.
The HKO had organised a seminar for government bureaux and departments in mid-March this year to facilitate more effective conveyance of adverse weather information.
HKO's new services include a simplified Chinese version of the HKO website, provision of satellite cloud animation and visibility reports in Hong Kong Waters on its website. The HKO has also enriched the contents of its Educational Resources web page to provide explanation of various weather phenomena for public education.
In the coming rainy season, the HKO will provide for public information through radio and television stations the highest recorded rainfall in various regions on an hourly basis during heavy rain.
As for weather forecasting techniques, the HKO is studying the feasibility of implementing a new generation numerical weather prediction model with a 6-km resolution to complement the existing 20-km resolution one. The HKO hopes that the new model can enhance its capability in the prediction of tropical cyclone movement and rainstorms.
In a review of the weather of 2001, Dr Lam said that the annual rainfall was on the high side while the rainfall in June had broken the record. Furthermore, weather phenomena uncommon in Hong Kong had occurred which included hailstorms in the urban areas in April, a waterspout at Tathong Channel in July, and regression of seawater at Tsim Bei Tsui and Sheung Wan due to storm surge during Typhoon Utor also in July. Last winter is the third warmest one on record.
Dr Lam said, "Indications are that a weak El Nino event may emerge later this year. The HKO's experimental long range forecast for 2002 is that there is a 60% chance that the annual rainfall will be near normal. There is also a 60% chance that the number of tropical cyclones affecting Hong Kong will be 5 to 6, slightly less than the normal of 6 to 7".
Dr Lam urged members of the public to check the conditions of windows and doors before the onset of the rain and typhoon seasons. Owners of overhanging advertising signs should ensure that these structures are safe and secure. Gutters and drains should be cleared of debris. People living in low-lying areas should take precautions against flooding. Private slope owners should ensure that their slopes are kept in good conditions, and that there is adequate drainage for rainwater. Schools, parents, and school bus drivers should familiarise themselves with guidelines issued by the Education Department to ensure the safety of students. Employers and employees should work out arrangements beforehand, such as rules on report for duty, release from work and resumption of work in the event of a rainstorm.
To celebrate the World Meteorological Day, the HKO will hold an exhibition open to the public on the coming Saturday and Sunday (23, 24 March) at its Headquarters. The public may visit the exhibition through the entrance at Nathan Road. Admission is free.