Under the auspices of the United Nations' World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the Public Weather Services (PWS) Implementation Coordination Team held a five-day meeting at the Hong Kong Observatory on November 24-28.
The team reviewed the work of PWS around the world in recent years and drew up development plans on further international collaboration for the coming years.
Apart from representatives from WMO and the Observatory, experts from Australia, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, South Africa and USA also took part in the discussion.
The main task of the Implementation Coordination Team is to oversee the work of various expert teams and to formalise action plans for practical implementation. Apart from being a member of the team, Mr Lam Chiu-ying, the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, also chairs one of the expert teams on "Warnings and Forecasts Exchange, Understanding and Use".
In recent years, apart from expending effort to develop public weather services and improve service quality in Hong Kong, the Observatory also actively contributed to the promotion of PWS work among WMO members, sharing Hong Kong's experience with counterparts from other meteorological services in the world.
At the meeting, the two websites developed and managed by the Observatory for WMO - "World Weather Information Services (WWIS)" and "Severe Weather Information Centre (SWIC)" - were highly praised, bearing testimony to the impact of PWS on a global scale. The number of cities included in the WWIS website now exceeds 800 and the number of page views has increased nearly four-fold since the introduction of a set of specially designed weather icons in August 2003. In SWIC, the coverage of tropical cyclone information has since been extended to cover all the major ocean basins around the world, and plans are in the works to introduce other severe weather types, such as rainstorms, to the website in phases.
The success of these websites has spurred the development of equivalent versions in other languages by meteorological services in other regions. The Chairman of the Implementation Coordination Team, Mr Kevin O'Loughlin from Australia, was delighted with the progress achieved so far. He expressed his wish for a further expansion of the two websites, so that even more developing countries would be able to reap the full benefits of the advances in weather forecasting technology.
The Chairman of the International Association of Broadcasting Meteorologists, Mr Gerald Fleming from Ireland, also attended the meeting. He hoped that through the dedicated effort of various PWS working groups, official weather information and warnings from regional meteorological services would be widely adopted for use by media operators and international broadcasting networks. Ultimately, this would lend enhanced authenticity and credibility to the weather programmes of various media, including TV, beamed around the world.