Golden sunset for weather boss

Local | Angel Kwan 14 Feb 2020

Shun Chi-ming is serving his last day as the director of the Hong Kong Observatory today, putting an end to his nine-year term in office.

He will take up a new career as head of the services commission at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, starting from April. Cheng Cho-ming, the assistant director, will succeed Shun as director.

Shun started his career as a scientific officer in 1986 and became director in 2011. He explained his choice to leave as "still having time to start a new career" at the age of 56.

"Typhoon Mangkhut was absolutely the most memorable [typhoon], and the one that I feared the most," Shun said yesterday.

The observatory issued three No 10 typhoon signals during his tenure of office, making him the director that had announced the most No 10s since 1984.

Shun recalled that the observatory decided to issue the standby signal No 1 when the Super Typhoon Mangkhut hadn't even entered the 800km radius of Hong Kong.

"It was the first time we issued the standby signal at such an early stage," Shun said, adding it was also unprecedented that the government started discussing arrangements six days ahead.

He said Mangkhut was the most powerful typhoon that he has ever seen or learned in history, and it was "very lucky" that no one in Hong Kong died.

He warned that the rising sea level would bring more powerful typhoons in the future, and disaster prevention is hence becoming more important.

When asked about which project he is the proudest of during his term, Shun said it is the world's first Lidar Windshear Alerting System that the observatory developed in 2006, which provided minute-to-minute warnings to aircraft when it detected signatures of wind shear, or a sudden change in wind direction or velocity, an accomplishment in preventing serious accidents.

Shun did not comment on his expectations for his successor Cheng, but said it would always be important to treasure the core values of the observatory, "especially our foundation on science, and to serve the public for the betterment of society and for public safety."

Prior to his departure, Shun will donate some of his collections to the observatory's history room - including a photo of the disastrous 1874 typhoon that killed over 2,000 people in Hong Kong.

"We sometimes experience natural disasters in our life, but they would be gone at last," he said

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