Journal of Meteorological Research

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 859–876 | Cite as

An overview of nowcasting development, applications, and services in the Hong Kong Observatory

  • Ping-Wah Li (李炳华)Email author
  • Wai-Kin Wong (黄伟健)
  • Ping Cheung (张 冰)
  • Hon-Yin Yeung (杨汉贤)


The Hong Kong Observatory (HKO) has been developing a suite of nowcasting systems to support operations of the forecasting center and to provide a variety of nowcasting services for the general public and specialized users. The core system is named the Short-range Warnings of Intense Rainstorm of Localized Systems (SWIRLS), which is a radar-based nowcasting system mainly for the automatic tracking of the movement of radar echoes and the short-range Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF). The differential, integral (or variational), and object-oriented tracking algorithms were developed and integrated into the nowcasting suite. In order to predict severe weather associated with intense thunderstorms, such as high gust, hail, and lightning, SWIRLS was enhanced to SWIRLS-II by introduction of a number of physical models, especially the icing physics as well as the thermodynamics of the atmosphere. SWIRLS-II was further enhanced with non-hydrostatic, high resolution numerical models for extending the forecast range up to 6 h ahead. Meanwhile, SWIRLS was also modifled for providing nowcasting services for aviation community and specialized users. To take into account the rapid development of lightning events, ensemble nowcasting techniques such as time-lagged and weighted average ensemble approaches were also adopted in the nowcasting system. Apart from operational uses in Hong Kong, SWIRLS/SWIRLS-II was also exported to other places to participate in several international events such as the WMO/WWRP Forecast Demonstration Project (FDP) during the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games and the Shanghai Expo 2010. Meanwhile, SWIRLS has also been transferred to various regional meteorological organizations for establishing their nowcasting infrastructure. This paper summarizes the history and the technologies of SWIRLS/SWIRLS-II and its variants and the associated nowcasting applications and services provided by the HKO since the mid 1990s.

Key words

nowcasting thunderstorm lightning aviation weather high resolution numerical weather prediction 


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Copyright information

© The Chinese Meteorological Society and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ping-Wah Li (李炳华)
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wai-Kin Wong (黄伟健)
    • 1
  • Ping Cheung (张 冰)
    • 1
  • Hon-Yin Yeung (杨汉贤)
    • 1
  1. 1.Hong Kong Meteorological Society and Hong Kong ObservatoryKowloon, Hong KongChina

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