At a meet-the-media session this afternoon (March 23), the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Lam Chiu-ying, talked about the Observatory's achievements in 2003 and the work to be done in 2004.
Mr Lam noted that the Observatory celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2003. A number of activities were held to mark the occasion and to promote public interest in weather and climate. In particular, the series of popular science lectures by distinguished meteorologists held jointly by the Observatory and the Hong Kong Science Museum were very successful and well attended.
Mr Lam said, "The Observatory also invited Professor Ho Pui-Yin of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to write a book tracing the impact of the weather on the community in Hong Kong during the past 100 years. This book, which has just been published, is very user-friendly, with many rare historical materials and photographs. Do have a look when you visit a library or bookshop."
An opinion poll conducted in October, 2003, showed that 80.2% of the forecasts issued by the Observatory were perceived to be accurate by the public. This rating is the highest since its inaugural survey in 1989. The level of satisfaction with the overall services provided by the Observatory is 7.9 on a scale of 0 to 10, also the highest so far. Mr Lam pointed out, "These record high ratings reflect not only the Observatory's advancement in the weather forecasting technology, but also the public's recognition of our efforts in providing services to meet their needs."
"In public weather services, two initiatives worth mentioning were the extension of tropical cyclone track forecasts from two days to three, and weather forecasts from five days to seven," he said.
The Observatory will co-operate with the meteorological services in Guangdong and Macau to build a lightning location system for the Pearl River Delta area which should become operational in the 2005. We will then be able to provide detailed information on lightning strikes to reduce casualties and damage inflicted by thunderstorms."
The Observatory's website continues to be popular among the public. Last year as a whole, there were more than 330 million page visits to the site, setting a new record. The highest number of daily visits was some 9.6 million, also a record. Mr Lam noted, "Last year, radar imageries and weather information at tourist locations in Hong Kong were added to our website. We plan to disseminate numerical model forecast products generated by the Observatory's supercomputer on our website soon. The PDA version of our website will also be available shortly. Members of the public can then get access to weather information wherever they are and whenever they need."
"The provision of weather services through the internet has impressed meteorological services around the world. The 'World Weather Information Service' and 'Severe Weather Information Centre' websites we developed on behalf of the World Meteorological Organisation are acclaimed by the international meteorological community, and won for the Observatory a prize at the Asia Pacific Information and Communication Technology Award held at the end of 2003 in Bangkok," Mr Lam said.
"The Chinese version of the 'World Weather Information Service' website was launched by China Meteorological Administration last month. The Macau Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau will also be launching the Portuguese version today jointly with the Meteorology Institute of Portugal. These different language versions enable more and more people around the world to get access official weather forecasts disseminated in their own native tongues. The development of these internet weather services not only meets the needs of the community, but also fits well with the 2004 World Meteorological Day theme 'Weather, Climate and Water in the Information Age'.
"Our outreach activities were strengthened last year, with colleagues meeting primary schools students to foster interest in and understanding of the weather. This outreach activity was also extended to the elderly for the first time to help them appreciate the meanings of the various warnings issued by the Observatory, especially the Cold Weather Warning and the Very Hot Weather Warning, so that the elderly can take better care of themselves during inclement weather.
"With the increase in the information disseminated on our website, basic courses on meteorology were conducted last year for members of the public and government departments to strengthen their ability to interpret the radar and satellite imageries as well as weather charts posted on our sites. These courses were very well received and more will be held. Members of the public who are interested are invited to apply," Mr Lam added.
The Observatory's achievements in public weather services and disaster mitigation have been highly praised by the international meteorological community. Last year, the Director of the Hong Kong Observatory in his capacity as chairman hosted in Hong Kong the World Meteorological Organisation's expert team meeting on weather forecasting and warning. Last week, he chaired a meeting of experts on the Organisation's newly established 'Natural Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Programme' in Geneva.
In concert with these activities, the Observatory will host a symposium with disaster prevention as its theme at the end of this month. World-renowned experts have been invited to give keynote speeches. Personnel from related departments and academics in Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China will be participating to exchange experience and strengthen co-operation in disaster mitigation.
On climate and climate change, in which the public has shown much concern, Mr Lam said, "Last August, we announced our findings on the change in climate in Hong Kong in the past 100 years. We are now studying the past changes in sea level and also the climate change Hong Kong is likely to face in coming decades. We will announce our findings when they become available later this year."
In regard to the weather outlook for Hong Kong in 2004, Mr Lam said, "Current indications are that no significant El Nino event will develop in the tropical Pacific this year. Analysis of climatological data suggests that in 2004 Hong Kong will most likely see near normal rainfall, the probability of this occurring being about 60%. The number of tropical cyclones affecting Hong Kong tends to be less than normal, between four and six. The probability of this happening is about 70%."
As Hong Kong will soon be going into the rainy and tropical cyclone season, Mr Lam urged members of the public to heed the warnings issued by the Observatory and to take appropriate precautions to safeguard their safety and property.
The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory (centre) with his four Assistant Directors
The Director of the Hong Kong Observatory displaying the just published "Weathering the Storm"
Inquisitive pupils asking questions during Hong Kong Observatory's outreach to a primary school
2004 short range climate forecast for Hong Kong