The two websites on worldwide official weather forecasts and warnings viz. World Weather Information Service (WWIS) <www.worldweather.org> and the Severe Weather Information Centre (SWIC) <severe.worldweather.org>, developed and operated by the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) on behalf of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) of the United Nations, start formal operation today (23 March 2005) after a trial period of over two years. This was decided recently at a meeting of the WMO in St. Petersberg.
Dr. Wong Ming-chung, Assistant Director of the HKO, who recently returned from the WMO meeting in St. Petersburg, said, "The two websites which are user-friendly and useful received much compliment from fellow meteorologists. Representatives of WMO Members at the St. Petersburg meeting in February gave unanimous support for turning the two websites into an established operation under WMO's Public Weather Services Programme. We are honoured to be able to assist WMO in serving the global community by developing and operating these websites.
The two websites represent the joint effort of the national meteorological authorities worldwide to provide an authoritative source of official weather information for easy access by the public and the media through the internet.
The Secretary-General of WMO, Mr. Michel Jarraud, said, "The creation and implementation of these two websites reflect WMO's long term commitment in the provision of quality weather services to decision makers and the public, particularly on early warnings. The painful memory of the recent tsunami catastrophe in southern Asia reminds us of the vital importance of sharing information in order to prevent and mitigate natural disasters. By making reliable weather observations and forecasts from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services conveniently available on the Internet, the meteorological community serves the world better."
Dr. Yeung King-kay, the Senior Scientific Officer of the HKO who served as the coordinator of the two websites for WMO said, "The need to communicate effectively with over 100 representatives from all over the world with different cultural and language backgrounds is the greatest challenge as well as the reward of the projects. Although I am still learning, I would testify that, to be able to communicate with the heart is the key to achieve global cooperation which is essential to the success of these websites."
Mr. Tsui Yung-ho, the programmer who participated in the implementation of the websites at HKO said, "It is a most valued experience to work in these projects from its pilot phase to its operational release. It is so pleasing to know that the websites are actually serving many people worldwide, about 10,000 people every hour every day! I remember the moment when we celebrated for the number of city forecasts exceeded 1,000 with the Secretary-General of WMO in December last year. I hope that we will have further breakthroughs in the near future."
Miss Joanne Chan Yuk-hing, a Scientific Assistant at the HKO said, "It is a good experience to open dialogue with people from different countries. Everyday we receive many email enquiries in different languages, English, French, Spanish, ... etc. I remember that we received an email in Russian at one time and the whole team had a hard time in translating the email word by word using the Russian-English dictionary! Looking back now, it is all great fun."
The Director of the HKO, Mr. Lam Chiu-ying, said, "We are very proud to have played a central role in this successful WMO project. The HKO has demonstrated itself to be a very effective agent in bringing together the developed as well as the developing countries, to implement an information service useful to the global community. I would like to thank my staff who have worked hard and contributed to the realization of these websites. Without their zealous efforts, the project would not have come to fruition."
The WWIS website contains official city forecasts and climatological information, official weather observations as well as convenient links to the official websites of worldwide meteorological authorities and tourism boards. As of today, forecasts for 1016 cities from 101 WMO Members are provided, while climatological data are given for 1075 cities from 154 Members in the WWIS website.
The SWIC website provides tropical cyclone information and warnings for all ocean basins affected by tropical cyclones as well as charts showing the global distribution of severe weather information such as heavy rain/snow.
The HKO was one of the pioneers in the use of internet technology to deliver weather information to the public. Since the mid-1990s, the HKO has stayed in the forefront of the design, management and operation of websites for meteorological data processing and presentation. Recognizing the leading expertise of the HKO, WMO entrusted the Observatory in 2000 to design, develop and host the two WMO websites, which began operation as pilot projects in 2002. Apart from offering official weather information to the world, the websites would also provide a window through which weather forecasts from developing countries are conveyed to the global community, thus enhancing their visibility.
In the course of the project, the HKO adopted a very flexible data reception arrangement. More than 30 developing countries, including 13 least developed countries, have joined in the provision of forecasts in the WWIS. Furthermore, to reach out to the worldwide audience, the WWIS website has expanded, besides English, to three more language versions, namely Arabic, Chinese and Portuguese which are operated respectively by Oman, China and Macao, China.
When planning for holidays or business abroad, members of the public are encouraged to visit these websites for weather information either directly:
Arabic version http://worldweather.met.gov.om:8000
Chinese version http://www.worldweather.cn
English version http://www.worldweather.org
Portuguese version http://www.smg.gov.mo/wwis/
or through the Hong Kong Observatory website http://www.weather.gov.hk.
For further enquiries, members of the public may contact Senior Scientific Officer of HKO, Dr. Yeung King-kay ( Telephone: 2926 8355 or e-mail: email@example.com).