Date
21 July 2017
An inter-agency force participated in the rescue of stranded motorists, frost chasers and marathoners at the peak of the cold snap on Sunday. Photo: RTHK
An inter-agency force participated in the rescue of stranded motorists, frost chasers and marathoners at the peak of the cold snap on Sunday. Photo: RTHK

Did Observatory err again in weather forecasts?

After the city experienced the coldest days since 1957 on Sunday and Monday, attention once more is focused on the performance of the Hong Kong Observatory.

Was it up to the task as far as its weather forecasts are concerned?

Before the polar vortex hit Hong Kong, the Observatory said temperatures on Sunday could be as low as 6 degrees Celsius and could drop further to 3 degrees on Monday.

While it was indeed freezing cold on those days, the actual temperature was 3.1 degrees on Sunday and 4.3 degrees on Monday, Ming Pao Daily reported.

The gap between the forecasts and the actual readings was 2.9 and 1.3 degrees, respectively, both of which were larger than the allowable error of one degree set by the Observatory, the newspaper said.

Chan Sai-tick, senior scientific officer of the Observatory, said it was not easy to make accurate forecasts because of the unpredictability of extreme weather.

The actual temperature was lower than forecast on Sunday because the duration of rain was longer than expected, Chan said, adding that the current system used by the Observatory could not forecast how long the rain would take.

Still, he stressed the Observatory was right in predicting the peaks of the cold snap would fall on Sunday morning and Monday morning.

But should the Observatory be blamed for people who ignored warnings and dared to go out in the icy weather?

As temperatures plunged, firemen, police and civil aid services had their hands full rescuing over 100 frost chasers and marathoners who were stranded in the mountains, especially in Tai Mo Shan, the city’s highest peak.

On Sunday at least 129 people had to be brought down from the mountains while another 67, many of them suffering from hypothermia, had to be rushed to hospitals.

At a press conference on Monday, deputy chief fire officer Yau Wai-keung said 56 pairs of crampons had to be used by rescuers to negotiate slippery roads. 

The frost worsened on Sunday afternoon, and some of the rescuers were injured, Yau said.

– Contact us at [email protected]

TL/AC/CG

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe