Even though the local weather is fine, many swimming pools will be closed the moment the Hong Kong Observatory issues the thunderstorm warning. This has caused much inconvenience to swimmers. The Observatory today (July 31) launched a trial version of an enhanced lightning location information webpage. The enhanced webpage provides a bigger and clearer map including more geographical references. This makes it easier for people to identify the area affected by lightning and facilitates operators to decide more flexibly whether swimming pools should be closed.
Senior Scientific Officer, Miss SY Lau, said that when thunderstorms were expected to affect any part of Hong Kong, the Observatory would issue a thunderstorm warning. "Thunderstorms are often localised and affect only some parts of the territory. To minimise the impact of the thunderstorm warning on outdoor activities, the Observatory has enhanced the lightning location information webpage to include landmarks that are relevant to outdoor activities, such as public swimming pools, beaches, country parks and reservoirs so that people would be aware how far the thunderstorms are from them," Miss Lau said.
"With the help of the webpage, operators of private swimming pools will be able to get an overall picture of how far the lightning activity is from the swimming pools. Instead of simply closing the swimming pool once the Observatory issues thunderstorm warning, the operator can keep the pool open so long as there is no threat from lightning", Miss Lau said.
In the past year, the Observatory has set up lightning alerting systems for 32 beaches and 37 swimming pools operated by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. The addition of geographic references will facilitate beach and swimming pool caretakers to appreciate the areas in Hong Kong affected by thunderstorms, thus contributing towards the safe operation of the facilities.
Besides the addition of more geographic references, the new webpage also features a new function "Area Statistics" which provides the number of lightning strokes recorded within the area selected by user. Another new feature is the overlay of radar image onto the lightning map, which is just a click away.
Since its inception in June, 2005, the lightning location information service has been well received by the public. Hour-by-hour lightning counts were added in August the same year. Visits to the webpage have so far exceeded 3.6 million.
The new webpage is available at http://www.weather.gov.hk/wxinfo/llis/gis.htm. Comments from users are welcome.