23rd March 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Hong Kong Observatory (HK) held a press conference today (23rd) to review the weather and climate conditions in the city last year. The new Director of the HKO, Chan Pak-wai, stated that the headquarters recorded 15 days of temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius or above last year.
In response to the increasing hot weather in Hong Kong, the Observatory has decided to strengthen the level of the heat warning system. When the predicted temperature is expected to reach 35 degrees Celsius or above, the Observatory will issue a “Special Weather Tips” and a “Very Hot Weather Warning” to remind the public.
Mr Chan pointed out that the past eight years (2015 to 2022) were the eight warmest years on record globally according to the preliminary assessment of the World Meteorological Organisation. Global mean sea level continued to rise in 2022, reaching a new record high. In 2022, extreme weather brought by climate change continued to impact different parts of the world.
Locally, 2022 was among the six warmest years since records began in 1884, with the annual mean temperature reaching 23.9 degrees, 0.4 degree higher than normal. With the monthly mean temperature reaching 30.3 degrees, July 2022 was the hottest month on record in Hong Kong. Moreover, the autumn mean temperature of 26.4 degrees for September to November 2022 was the warmest on record for the same period. In addition, there were 52 hot nights (with a daily minimum temperature at 28.0 degrees or above) and 52 very hot days (with a daily maximum temperature at 33.0 degrees or above) in 2022, both ranking as the second highest on record. Moreover, there were 15 days with daily maximum temperatures at the HKO equal to or higher than 35.0 degrees in 2022, the highest on record. With the northeast monsoon over Guangdong generally weaker than normal, both January and February 2023 were warmer than usual in Hong Kong.
On the weather outlook for 2023, the HKO predicts that the tropical cyclone season may start in June or later, and end in October or earlier. It is expected that there will be about four to seven tropical cyclones coming within 500 kilometres of Hong Kong during the year, which is near normal. As the climate continues to warm, the annual mean temperature in Hong Kong is expected to be above normal, with a high chance of reaching the warmest top 10 on record. Annual rainfall is expected to be normal to below normal. However, Hong Kong would still be affected by heavy rain. Members of the public are reminded to be prepared for the rain and tropical cyclone seasons.
Mr Chan also highlighted the enhancement of the HKO’s various services. With rising temperatures due to climate change, the HKO has been studying health impacts of extremely hot weather jointly with universities and partners, with a view to strengthening the very hot weather warning service, e.g. introducing new special weather tips, to remind the public of extremely high temperatures and the corresponding precautionary measures.
With the rainy season approaching, the HKO has enhanced services of the “MyObservatory” mobile application with an additional map layer of traffic speed. While users can obtain the latest rainfall and lightning forecasts at any location in the coming one or two hours in the “Location-based Rainfall and Lightning Forecast” section, the new feature can help users better understand the weather impact on road traffic.
In respect of weather monitoring, the HKO enhanced the regional weather information services in March by providing real-time relative humidity information from seven automatic weather stations, namely Hong Kong Park, Shau Kei Wan, Kowloon City, Kai Tak Runway Park, Clear Water Bay, Pak Tam Chung and Tai Lung on the HKO website and the mobile application “MyObservatory”.
To tie in with the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), the HKO is working closely with the Environmental Protection Department to prepare for setting up a GBA air quality laboratory and meteorology monitoring supersite in Hong Kong, to implement the relevant task announced in “The Chief Executive’s 2022 Policy Address”. The supersite is expected to commence operation in 2027, and will also be the site of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Meteorological Monitoring and Warning Center (Hong Kong), providing a platform for regional collaboration and research in meteorological science, further strengthening the capability in forecasting extreme weather, and taking forward Hong Kong’s work in the Meteorological Development Plan for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (2020-2035).
In respect of earthquake and tsunami monitoring, at the invitation of the National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center of the Ministry of Natural Resources in Beijing, the HKO has set up the Backup South China Sea Tsunami Advisory Center (Hong Kong) at its central forecasting office in support of the main centre in Beijing to provide tsunami warning messages on potentially destructive tsunamis to nine (Note) National Tsunami Warning Centers of the Member States of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization around the South China Sea. After trial operation for a year, the backup centre will commence operation on March 29. At the same time, the HKO will enhance earthquake reports by including information on the focal depth of the earthquake. The HKO also plans to launch revamped earthquake and tsunami webpages in the second quarter of this year. Infographics will be added to assist with browsing by the public and enhance their knowledge on earthquakes and tsunamis as well as awareness of the associated hazards.
On public education, the HKO revamped the Educational Resources website in December last year, with the enrichment of infographics to introduce precautionary measures against various natural hazards. To further enhance the educational information, the HKO will soon launch infographics about hazardous weather and phenomena on the webpage to deepen the knowledge of the public on their formation and impact. The HKO also plans to resume the face-to-face Public Course on Weather Observation at the end of this year to provide interested members of the public with basic knowledge of weather observation and its applications. The content will cover identification of different types of clouds, various weather phenomena and hazards, the working principles of meteorological equipment and the interpretation of weather charts, etc.
The year 2023 marks the 140th anniversary of the HKO. A series of activities has been planned to celebrate the anniversary and to engage the public to promote awareness on weather and climate change. A dedicated webpage “HKO 140th Anniversary” is launched today to enable members of the public to appreciate the Observatory’s history over the past 140 years through photos, videos and an electronic version of “A brief history of the Hong Kong Observatory”. In addition, the HKO’s open day will take place on March 25 (Saturday) and March 26 (Sunday). Successful applicants are reminded to arrive at the Observatory headquarters at the registered time slot. Members of the public can also visit the “Hong Kong Observatory Open Day 2023” webpage to be launched on March 25, to understand the HKO’s work and services. Furthermore, the 140th anniversary book “Stories under passing storms” will be published later this year. The book comprises articles written by HKO partners and colleagues with their sharing of real-life stories and experiences. The book is highly recommended for those interested in weather as well as the history of the Observatory. Details of the book sale will be announced later this year.
In addition, the HKO also plans to organise the Tropical Cyclone Name Collection Campaign this year, inviting members of the public to propose and vote on tropical cyclone names with Hong Kong characteristics. Details of the campaign will be announced in due course.