Hong Kong Observatory

The Hong Kong Observatory is a weather forecast agency of the government of Hong Kong. The Observatory forecasts the weather and issues warnings on weather-related hazards. It also monitors and makes assessments on radiation levels in Hong Kong and provides other meteorological and geophysical services to meet the needs of the public and the shipping, aviation, industrial and engineering sectors.

Hong Kong Observatory
Agency overview
Formed2 March 1883 (1883-03-02)[1]
Headquarters134A Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Employees315 (March 2018)[2]
Annual budget381.4m HKD (2019–20)[2]
Agency executive
  • Dr. Cheng Cho-ming, Director of the Hong Kong Observatory
Parent agencyEnvironment and Ecology Bureau
Hong Kong Observatory
The 1883 building
The Hong Kong Observatory Centenary Building


The Observatory was established on 2 March 1883 as the Hong Kong Observatory by Sir George Bowen, the 9th Governor of Hong Kong, with William Doberck (1852–1941) as its first director. Early operations included meteorological and magnetic observations, a time service based on astronomical observations and a tropical cyclone warning service. The Observatory was renamed the Royal Observatory Hong Kong (Chinese: 皇家香港天文台) after obtaining a Royal Charter in 1912.[1] The Observatory adopted the current name and emblem in 1997 after the transfer of Hong Kong's sovereignty from the UK to China.

The Hong Kong Observatory was built in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon in 1883. Observatory Road in Tsim Sha Tsui is so named based on this landmark. However, due to rapid urbanisation, it is now surrounded by skyscrapers. As a result of high greenhouse gas emissions, the reflection of sunlight from buildings and the surfaces of roads, as well as the reduced vegetation, it suffers from a heat island effect. This was demonstrated by the considerable increase in average temperatures recorded by the Observatory between 1980 and 2005. In 2002, the Observatory opened a resource centre on the 23rd Floor of the nearby Miramar Tower, where the public can buy Hong Kong Observatory publications and access other meteorological information.

Hong Kong Observatory Grounds

Buildings in the observatory

1883 building

This building, built in 1883, is a rectangular two-storey plastered brick structure. It is characterised by arched windows and long verandas. It now houses the office of the directorate and serves as the centre of administration of the Observatory.[3] The building is a declared monument of Hong Kong since 1984.[4][5]

The Hong Kong Observatory Headquarters

This building is next to the 1883 Building; the Centenary Building, used as The Hong Kong Observatory Headquarters, was erected in 1983 as a commemoration of the centennial service of the Observatory.[6]


Over the years, the observatory has been led by:

Signs of Hong Kong Observatory in different years.
# Name Tenure Start Tenure End Length of Tenure Notes
1 William Doberck 2 March 1883 12 September 1907 24 years and 195 days
  • First Director
  • Longest serving Director
2 Frederick George Figg 13 September 1907 13 June 1912 4 years and 275 days
3 Thomas Folkes Claxton 14 June 1912 8 July 1932 20 years and 25 days
  • Second Director to serve over 20 years
4 Charles William Jeffries 9 July 1932 20 June 1941 8 years and 347 days
5 Benjamin Davis Evans 21 June 1941 30 April 1946 4 years and 314 days
6 Graham Scudamore Percival Heywood 1 May 1946 7 April 1956 9 years and 343 days
7 Ian Edward Meni Watts 8 April 1956 23 August 1965 9 years and 138 days
8 Gordon John Bell 24 August 1965 16 January 1981 15 years and 146 days
9 John Edgar Peacock 17 January 1981 14 March 1984 3 years and 58 days
  • Last British Director
10 Patrick Sham Pak 15 March 1984 25 May 1995 11 years and 72 days
  • First local Hong Kong Chinese Director
11 Robert Lau Chi-kwan 26 May 1995 21 December 1996 1 year and 210 days
12 Lam Hung-kwan 22 December 1996 13 March 2003 6 years and 82 days
13 Lam Chiu-ying 14 March 2003 10 May 2009 6 years and 58 days
14 Lee Boon-ying 11 May 2009 13 April 2011 1 year and 338 days
15 Shun Chi-ming 14 April 2011 14 February 2020 8 years and 307 days
16 Cheng Cho-ming 15 February 2020 Incumbent 2 years, 349 days

From 1885 to 1948, the HKO used the coat of arms of the United Kingdom in various styles for its logo but in 1949, this was changed to a circular escutcheon featuring pictures of weather observation tools, with the year 1883 at the bottom and a St Edward's Crown at the top. In 1981, the logo was changed to the old coat of arms, and in 1997, with the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, the current logo was introduced to replace the colonial symbols.

Outreach activities and publicity

Young visitors at the Observatory
A sign with the old name before 1997

The Friends of the Observatory, an interest group set up in 1996 to help the Observatory to promote Hong Kong Observatory and its services to the public, provide science extension activities in relation to the works of the Observatory and foster communication between the Observatory and the public, now has more than 7,000 individual and family members in total. Activities organised for the Friends of the Observatory include regular science lectures and visits to Observatory's facilities. Newsletters (named 談天說地) were also published for members once every four months. Voluntary docents from this interest group lead a "HKO Guided Tour" to let the public who applied for visit in advance to visit the headquarters of the Observatory, and learn about the history, environment and meteorological science applied by the Observatory.

The Observatory regularly organises visits for secondary school students. This outreach programme was extended to primary school students, the elderly and community groups in recent years. Talks are also organised in primary schools during the winter time, when officials are less busy in the severe climate issues and watchouts. A roving exhibition for the public was also mounted in shopping malls in 2003. To promote understanding of the services provided by the Observatory and their benefits to the community, over 50 press releases were issued and 7 media briefings were held in 2003. From time to time, the Observatory also works closely with schools for a series of events, including with the Geography Society of PLK Vicwood KT Chong Sixth Form College between 2008 and 2009.

See also


  1. "History of the Hong Kong Observatory". Hong Kong Observatory. 20 May 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  2. "Head 168 – HONG KONG OBSERVATORY" (PDF). Hong Kong Observatory. Brand Hong Kong. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  3. Hong Kong Observatory
  4. "Hong Kong Observatory, Tsim Sha Tsui". Antiquities and Monuments Office. Government of Hong Kong. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
  5. "Annex I Listing of Declared Monuments". Environmental Protection Department. Government of Hong Kong. 1 January 1999. Archived from the original on 28 October 2009. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  6. Hong Kong Observatory: Buildings

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