Hu­mane fac­tor of warn­ing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK COMMENT -

The Hong Kong Ob­ser­va­tory (HKO) is­sued trop­i­cal cy­clone warn­ing, com­monly known as Sig­nal No 8, on Wed­nes­day early morn­ing as Typhoon Utor brushed by Hong Kong on its way to­ward the western coast of Guang­dong. The sig­nal stayed up for 12 hours un­til it was re­placed by Sig­nal No 3 shortly be­fore 2 pm on Wed­nes­day. The change meant peo­ple had to re­turn to work be­cause ex­ist­ing la­bor law re­quires em­ploy­ees to go to work when Sig­nal No 8 is low­ered be­fore 2 pm on a work­day. This time many salary earn­ers were un­happy be­cause they had to rush back to work, but only for about two or three hours when it was time to go home again.

To be per­fectly hon­est, HKO did noth­ing wrong by fol­low­ing stan­dard pro­to­col on weather warn­ing an­nounce­ments based on sci­en­tific anal­y­sis of lat­est data and in ac­cor­dance with ex­ist­ing law. It had fore­casted well be­fore the sig­nal change that it could re­place Sig­nal No 8 with Sig­nal No 3 at around 2 pm. And bus com­pa­nies all re­sumed nor­mal ser­vice be­fore the sig­nal change, at around 1 pm. Th­ese ar­range­ments al­lowed peo­ple to go to work on time and, as a re­sult, not many cases of se­ri­ous crowd­ing dur­ing the “abrupt” rush hour were re­ported. For th­ese forecasts alone the HKO deserves a nod of ap­proval if not a medal.

As science and tech­nol­ogy con­tinue to ad­vance weather forecasts are be­com­ing more ac­cu­rate, though Mother Na­ture’s mood swings re­main as un­pre­dictable as ever if not more so, mak­ing it very hard for the HKO to re­main ac­cu­rate at all time. Mem­bers of the pub­lic should ap­pre­ci­ate the hard work of me­te­o­rol­o­gists at the HKO and un­der­stand weather fore­cast­ing is still a long way from be­com­ing a pre­cise science. That said, some peo­ple did have a hard time catch­ing buses in or­der to be back at work on time on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon and only to call it a day an hour or two later. Nat­u­rally they were up­set about the short no­tice and re­sult­ing waste of time and bus fare.

This kind of com­plaint re­minds the HKO its forecasts can be more flex­i­ble some­times by look­ing at the tim­ing from a more hu­mane per­spec­tive, but only when pub­lic safety is rea­son­ably as­sured. This is an ex­cerpted trans­la­tion of a Wen Wei Po edi­to­rial pub­lished on Aug 15.

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