2019 Smart Business Grand Award

Hong Kong Observatory

From detection of rain to safeguarding of the community against hazardous weather

Description of Entry:
The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) pioneers nowcasting to predict severe weather in the next few hours and has been designated by the World Meteorological Organization as the Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre for Nowcasting. HKO has developed an urban-scale nowcasting system, namely SWIRLS (Short-range Warning of Intense Rainstorms in Localized Systems) that innovatively uses observations from radars, lightning sensors and rain gauges while adopting computer vision, deep learning and computer weather model to provide timely and effective forecasts of location, timing and intensity of rainfall and lightning hours ahead.

SWIRLS supports operation of rainstorm forecasting and warning services, and powers public nowcast services through HKO’s mobile app and website. Additionally, rainfall nowcasts are provided to Civil Engineering and Development Department, Drainage Services Department and Water Supplies Department, to mitigate landslides, improve works efficiency, enhance ecology and preserve freshwater. Customised lightning nowcast products enable timely activation of responses prior to arrival of inclement weather.

SWIRLS has been adopted in weather services in Mainland China, Macao, India, South Africa and Malaysia, with a collaborative development platform established for future development.


Comments from Judging Panel:
The panel appreciated the solution’s ability to accurately forecast rainfall and lightning and predicting their location as well as intensity several hours in advance. It enables timely and effective preparation to respond to these potentially hazardous weather conditions, thereby protecting people and properties. Many organisations have benefited from this solution, such as Hong Kong International Airport, Geotechnical Engineering Office, Drainage Services Department, etc. In collaboration with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the team has developed a novel algorithm for rainfall nowcast based on deep learning. The research result was published at the Conference of Neural Information Processing System (NeurIPS). This paper was widely circulated and considered the field of deep learning nowcast worldwide.

The HKO provides nowcasting product to serve Asia by making available some of its work in the form of open source software and open data.

Website of Entry: http://www.weather.gov.hk

From detection of rain to safeguarding of the community against hazardous weather  1

From detection of rain to safeguarding of the community against hazardous weather  2