Seasonal Almanac

Major cold: streams and marshes frozen solid (1 of 5)

January 31st, 2009

Major cold 11 of 15The last two days have been blessed with fine weather and blue sky – an increasingly rare phenomenon in Hong Kong. Clear sky was taken for granted when I was growing up although pollution was already on the rise. When I came back to Hong Kong in the mid-1990s, I noticed that the sky was no longer blue but a kind of dirty grey.

I recently read the blog of Hong Kong Observatory’s director. In combining everyday observations with scientific information, Mr. Lam gently broaches the subject of air pollution (see his entry on Thursday January 8th) – a topic that sparks a lot of debates in Hong Kong.

Fingers usually point at the rapid growth of industry north of the border in Shenzhen, although Hong Kong itself is also responsible for creating its own share of pollution in its electricity generation using coal thereby emitting nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and particulates.

The Chinese new year holidays bring factories and industries to a brief stop, bringing a much needed relief to the urban dwellers who can enjoy a day or two of blue skies. We spotted some keen hikers taking advantage of the weather to climb the Lion Rock.

2 Responses to “Major cold: streams and marshes frozen solid (1 of 5)”

  1. 1 Lucas in Petersham
    February 3rd, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    jo, that observatory director’s blog is unexpectedly poetic. i get the idea of a rather lofty romantic intellectual with a job which is rather beneath his capabilities (plotting the times of sunrise and sunset) with a lot of time to philosophise. I particularly like his connection between the increase in pollution and the diminishing distinction between day and night. Something metaphysical about the following:

    “In recent years, the sun often disappears gradually behind a thick curtain of suspended particulates in the lower atmosphere at evening time long before it reaches the horizon. Day and night are no longer separated by a sharp line.[…] Nowadays, normal sunset is so rarely seen that it has ended up being mistaken by people as a “special astronomical phenomenon”. I am afraid the turbidity of our air has reached a point where we must look it in the face and wonder what has gone wrong. Why is the sky increasingly turbid? Are human beings responsible? What has happened in the last twenty years? What could we do to stop further deterioration?

    Finally, I invite you to think about this: is it important in life to be able to see real sunset?”

    what a question! if only the observatory director’s blog had comments for local citizens to give their opinions on a possible answer…

  2. 2 jolaw
    February 7th, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Yes, quite a poet. Mr. Lam brings the field of metereology back to its origin of poetic sky-gazing. His warmth and enthusiasm for his job are exemplified by his choice to use photographs of the staff at the observatory (rather than just a headshot of him for example) for the banner of his blog.

    My mother tells me that he is quite a well-known identity in HK because of his environmentalist views. This is a city where the local government would not broach the subject of pollution control in Shenzhen with China, slow to curb the pollution produced by local electricity plants, and even denies that air pollution is bad for one’s health! Unfortunately though I also hear that Mr. Lam will be retiring in the middle of this year.