Speeches and Presentations

Experts from typhoon warning authorities meet in Hong Kong

Around 90 meteorological, hydrological and disaster reduction experts in the region are gathering in Hong Kong to take part in the 45th Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP)/World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Typhoon Committee from today (January 29) to February 1.

The Session, hosted by the Hong Kong Observatory (HKO), will review and discuss collaboration on regional activities in reducing loss of life and damage caused by tropical cyclones. The Director of the HKO, Mr Shun Chi-ming, was elected as the Chairperson of the Typhoon Committee for 2013 in the Session today.

The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So; the Chairperson of the Typhoon Committee for 2012 and the Deputy Administrator of the China Meteorological Administration, Ms Jiao Meiyan; the Chief of the Tropical Cyclone Programme Division of the WMO, Mr Koji Kuroiwa; the Director of the Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division of UNESCAP, Dr Shamika Sirimanne; the Director of the HKO, Mr Shun Chi-ming; and the Secretary of the Typhoon Committee, Mr Olavo Rasquinho, officiated at the opening ceremony today.

Delivering her speech in the opening ceremony of the Session, Ms Jiao described the year 2012 as a busy year in terms of typhoon activity.

"In China, six typhoons packed with winds exceeding force 12 hit 18 provinces within one month, a historical record of the same period. Bopha, the strongest and deadliest storm that hit the Philippines last year, led to more than 1,000 deaths and affected millions of people. Sanba, the most powerful typhoon in the decade, lashed the Korean Peninsula, leaving power down, houses destroyed and transport interrupted.

"This reminds us of the importance of the work of the Typhoon Committee - to minimise the loss of life and material damage caused by typhoons in Asia through planning and implementation of required measures," Ms Jiao said.

Also speaking in the ceremony, Mr Shun noted that Hong Kong last hosted the annual Session in 1997.

"Hosting this important international conference in Hong Kong in 2013 has special meaning to the Hong Kong Observatory as it kicks off a series of celebration activities of the 130th anniversary of the Observatory. Established in 1883, the Observatory has a long history in regional and international co-operation in relation to tropical cyclones.

"As early as 1930, the Observatory hosted the first Conference of Directors of Far Eastern Meteorological Services, which concluded with a set of signals and symbols for use in issuing tropical cyclone warnings. Then, in 1934, the Director of the then Royal Observatory of Hong Kong, together with the Director of the Shanghai Xujiahui Observatory, went to the Philippines and, in collaboration with the meteorological department in Manila, established regional standard procedures for issuance of tropical cyclone warnings.

"To inherit this historical mission, standardisation of tropical cyclone warnings remains one of the initiatives being actively promoted internationally by the Hong Kong Observatory today," Mr Shun said.

In the opening ceremony, Mr So presented the 2012 Dr Roman L Kintanar Award to the Government Flying Service (GFS) in recognition of its commitment and outstanding work in implementing the Meteorological Data Collection Programme for Tropical Cyclones as well as its contribution towards greater protection of people against weather hazards.

Fixed-wing aircraft of the GFS equipped with meteorological sensors of the HKO flew in special missions into tropical cyclones over the South China Sea in 2011 and 2012 to collect very useful meteorological information to enhance tropical cyclone forecast and warning operations.

The Controller of the GFS, Captain Michael Chan, said, "We are proud to work with the Hong Kong Observatory in the tropical cyclone surveillance efforts. When people in the region were busy looking for shelter and protection, our crews braved the difficult flying conditions in the storm. The success of the flights depends on the high level of knowledge and expertise of the crews. They have to fly the required flight paths and avoid severe weather at the same time. Valuable meteorological data collected will enable more accurate weather forecasts and thus minimise the loss of life and property."

The Dr Roman L Kintanar Award is presented every year to institutes and organisations in recognition of their dedicated effort in mitigating the impact and risks of disasters caused by tropical cyclones.

The Typhoon Committee Community Weather Information Network Project was also officially launched in the opening ceremony today. The Project is conducted under the lead of the HKO, in co-operation with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), with the aim of raising community awareness towards weather and climate through hands-on educational activities in running weather stations in participating Members of the Typhoon Committee. Community weather stations have recently been installed at schools in the Philippines and Guam, the US. The weather observation data from these stations are available on the Internet (www.icowin.org).

The Typhoon Committee Community Weather Information Network is an extension of the award-winning Hong Kong Community Weather Information Network. The latter, with current membership of over 100, was established jointly by the HKO, the Department of Applied Physics of PolyU and the Hong Kong Joint-school Meteorological Association in 2007.

The Typhoon Committee is under auspices of the UNESCAP and the WMO. It comprises 14 Members: Cambodia; China; the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Hong Kong, China; Japan; the Lao People's Democratic Republic; Macau, China; Malaysia; the Philippines; the Republic of Korea; Singapore; Thailand; the Socialist Republic of Vietnam; and the US. The Committee aims to integrate and enhance regional activities between Members within an international framework to reduce the loss of life and damage caused by tropical cyclones.

Note to editors
For enquiries, please contact the Chairman of the Local Organizing Committee of the 45th Session of the Typhoon Committee and the Senior Scientific Officer of the Hong Kong Observatory, Mr Mok Hing-yim, at 2926 8451.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013