Following is the speech by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Stephen Ip, at the opening of the 13th Session of WMO Regional Association II (Asia) today (December 7) (English only):
Mr Secretary-General (Mr Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of WMO), Mr President (Mr Majeed Isa, Acting President of Regional Association II (Asia) of WMO), Director (Mr C Y Lam, Director of Hong Kong Observatory), Distinguished Delegates and Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, I would like to welcome you all to the 13th Session of WMO Regional Association II. We are honoured to have the opportunity to host this important event, and we will do our best to make it a great success.
Meteorological service is an essential part of the infrastructure of any society. It provides critical information that enables people to live and work in a safe environment, and to make good use of our natural resources.
In Hong Kong, the history of the Hong Kong Observatory can be traced back to the days when Hong Kong emerged from a fishing village into a busy sea port in the Pearl River Delta in the 19th century. Of course there have been tremendous changes in virtually all aspects of weather forecasting throughout these years. Taking advantage of the most advanced technology, the Hong Kong Observatory has improved significantly on the accuracy of its weather forecast. We are now able to forecast pretty accurately what the weather will be like in the next seven days, although we cannot tell what is going to happen to us tomorrow!
The means of dissemination of weather information to the public has also undergone dramatic changes : from visual signal to radio communications; from print and graphic images to voice reports; and from terrestrial broadcasting to satellite and web-based transmissions. In recent years, the Internet has proven to be an ideal channel for publishing weather information and forecast. The Hong Kong Observatory website has been extremely popular with more than a million visits each day.
But as meteorologists continue to improve their services, the expectations of our community have also risen with time.
Not too long ago, Hong Kong people were quite satisfied with some general territory-wide weather forecast given our small physical size. But today, the Hong Kong Observatory is expected to strengthen its forecasting of localised weather conditions, such as severe rainstorms to minimise the weather impact on the most affected parts of the territory.
At our airport, the Hong Kong Observatory already operates one of the most comprehensive and sophisticated wind-shear detection systems in the world. But the growth of passenger traffic and air cargo throughput at the Hong Kong International Airport demands ever more precise and accurate aviation weather forecasts and warnings, to allow more landings and take-offs to take place under inclement weather without compromising safety.
At a more macro level, there is increasing community concern about the impact of climate change and the connection between climate and health. The Hong Kong Observatory has been studying the effect of global warming and rapid urban development on local climate changes, but clearly more in-depth studies are required both locally and internationally.
All these examples underline the importance of the need for meteorological services, and indeed for any service provider, to move with time to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers. There are always new challenges, and new opportunities. Given the complexity and global nature of the meteorological system, collaboration among meteorological services around the world is essential in meeting these challenges. In this regard, I would like to express my appreciation to WMO for providing an exemplary framework for international and regional co-operation in terms of information exchange, research and development, and technology transfer in the field of meteorology.
On our part, the Hong Kong Observatory is proud to have the opportunity to contribute to such international co-operation by developing and managing the World Weather Information Service and the Severe Weather Information Centre on behalf of WMO. These two pilot websites provide city forecasts and weather warnings from participating members to the international media and the global community in a cost-effective and affordable manner.
Hong Kong is also happy to contribute to experience sharing among fellow WMP members. An increasing number of our meteorologists are serving as chairpersons or members of working groups under WMO and ICAO, and as experts in missions on specific tasks for these organisations. Furthermore, under WMO's Voluntary Co-operation Programme, we have provided professional training to trainees from 30 members of WMO since 2000, covering a wide range of subjects.
Looking ahead, we will continue to work closely with all members of the WMO for the benefit of all people. The Regional Association II Session today provides a very good forum for all of us to share experience and expertise to meet future challenges and explore new opportunities. I am confident that the efforts of all the participants here will help to advance meteorological services in the years to come. I wish all of you a very successful and rewarding session, and an enjoyable stay here in Hong Kong, Asia's world city.
Thank you very much.
Ends/Tuesday, December 7, 2004