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Hong Kong Observatory needs calm heads in stormy weather

Published on Thursday, 28 Apr 2011
Illustration: Bay Leung

The Hong Kong Observatory provides us with weather forecasts and issues warnings on weather-related hazards.

Scientific officer Kong Wai says one should have a strong mind and body to do the job, being able to stay calm when one sees a sudden change in the sky. "Forecasting the weather is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week job. We work shifts, starting at noon and ending at 9.45pm."

It involves a lot of work using computers so those who are interested in joining the Hong Kong Observatory will have an edge over other competitors if they are tech-savvy and can think logically.

Scientific officers are not required to have a knowledge of meteorology but they should have a science background, preferably in physics or chemistry. Having a master's degree will be an advantage.

Kong says applicants can prepare well for an interview by going to the observatory's website. "The board will ask them questions regarding administration and management duties."

Newly employed staff try out at each of the four different branches of the observatory, namely development, research and administrative section, forecasting and warning services, aviation weather services, and radiation monitoring and assessment.

After spending a few months at each branch, they attend four to six months of overseas meteorological training in Australia, the UK or China. Then they have four more months of on-the-job training before working on their own as weather forecasters.

"Scientific officers must begin at the forecasting branch for a few months before moving on to other branches according to their own interest," Kong says.

They can then move up to the posts of senior scientific officer, assistant director and director. There are only four assistant directors and a director at the observatory. Most retire after taking on the position of senior scientific officer. It takes more than 10 years to be promoted to a senior position. Scientific officers earn from HK$36,000 to HK$74,000 a month. Senior scientific officers make as much as HK$90,000. 

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