Hong Kong 2006
Chapter 14:
The Environment
Administrative Framework
Pollution Prevention
Cross-boundary Cooperation
Legislation and Pollution Control
Air Pollution
Indoor Air Quality
Water Quality and Sewerage
Waste Management
Government Laboratory
Terrestrial Fauna
Marine Fauna
Legislation and Nature Conservation
Protected Areas
Topography and Geology
Hydrography and Oceanography
Meteorological Services
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Meteorological Services

Hong Kong Observatory

The Hong Kong Observatory was established in 1883, mainly to provide time service and weather information for the safe navigation of ships. Since then, it has evolved in line with community needs, providing services in weather forecasting, climatology, hydrometeorology, physical oceanography, and radiation monitoring and assessment. The Observatory also administers the official time standard for Hong Kong, provides astronomical information, maintains a seismological monitoring network and operates the tsunami warning system in Hong Kong.

The Observatory issues weather forecasts and warnings of hazardous weather to the public, mariners, the aviation community as well as special users such as container terminals and transport operators. Whenever Hong Kong is threatened by tropical cyclones, warnings are widely disseminated through the mass media. A colour-coded rainstorm warning system warns people of heavy rain. The Observatory also issues warnings on thunderstorms, landslips, fire danger, strong monsoon, cold and very hot weather as well as frost. This year, the Observatory commenced issuing ultraviolet (UV) index forecasts to enable members of the public to consider appropriate protective measures against the harm from UV radiation during outdoor activities.

Objective guidance for the issuance of rainstorm and landslip warnings is provided by a computer-based Nowcasting System developed by the Observatory itself. This system automatically analyses radar and raingauge data and forecasts the rainfall distribution within the territory in the few hours that follow. Under the World Weather Research Programme of the World Meteorological Organisation, the system was selected as one of the very short range forecasting systems for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Forecast Demonstration Project.

To support the 2008 Olympic equestrian event in Hong Kong, the Observatory has developed a measuring system to monitor a horse's heat stress. The system started collecting climatological data at the competition venues in June.

The Observatory's meteorologists host regular TV and radio weather programmes, and conduct media briefings in case of adverse weather. Weather information is also disseminated through the Observatory's website and its automatic Dial-a-Weather System. The Observatory's website continues to be one of the most popular government websites, with 918 million page hits in 2006, an increase of 75 per cent compared with 2005.

To promote public education and awareness about hazardous weather, the Observatory continues to organise a programme of meteorological courses for members of the public and government personnel, exhibitions, scientific lectures, Open Days and guided tours of the Observatory, with a total of about 20 000 participants.

The Observatory's Airport Meteorological Office (AMO) is responsible for the provision of weather services at the Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) and for the Hong Kong Flight Information Region. About 142 000 flight documents were provided by the AMO for aircraft departing the HKIA, an increase of 7.5 per cent compared with 2005.

Radiation Measurement and Assessment

The Observatory operates a network of 10 radiation monitoring stations to continuously monitor the ambient radiation levels in Hong Kong and conducts radiological measurements on samples of air, soil, water and food.

In the event of a nuclear emergency, the Observatory will immediately intensify radiation monitoring, assess the radiological consequences and provide technical advice to the relevant policy bureaux on the appropriate protective actions to take.

Climatological, Oceanographic and Geophysical Services

The Observatory provides climatological information to meet the needs of users and activities ranging from recreation to engineering design, environmental impact analysis and litigation. It also carries out studies on climate change and the impact of weather and climate on health. The Observatory issues in March each year an outlook on the annual rainfall and the number of tropical cyclones likely to affect Hong Kong. In 2006, the Observatory started issuing seasonal forecasts on the temperature and the rainfall in Hong Kong once every three months on an experimental basis.

The Observatory produces an annual tide table for Hong Kong. It also provides assessments of the probabilities of occurrence of extreme storm surges and advice on oceanographic matters to other government departments and the engineering community.

To monitor earthquake activities in the vicinity of Hong Kong, the Observatory operates a network of eight short-period seismograph stations. Long-period seismographs at the Observatory's headquarters detect tremors worldwide and information on significant tremors is made public through the media. In case of severe submarine earthquakes, a tsunami warning would be issued if necessary. In order to maintain public awareness, tsunami bulletins would be issued to inform the public about even the smaller scale tsunamis in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Time Standard is provided by a caesium beam atomic clock, which is accurate to within fractions of a microsecond. The Observatory contributes to the determination of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) by supplying signals of its atomic clock to the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) in France. Time checking services are available to the public through the Observatory's Dial-a-Weather System, the Internet and local radio stations. The Internet Network Time Service handled more than 395 million checks in 2006, a rise of 11 per cent compared with the previous year.

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