Operational forecasting of mesoscale weather systems in Hong Kong is supported by an automated nowcasting system called SWIRLS (Short-range Warning of Intense Rainstorms in Localised Systems). SWIRLS is based on the extrapolation of radar echoes using the TREC (Tracking Radar Echoes by Correlation) technique. With a suitable choice of pixel array size on the radar reflectivity maps, the TREC vectors derived can be used to monitor and extrapolate echo motion right across the mesoscale spectrum, from individual convective cells, to supercells and clusters, and to groups of rainbands or squall lines.
On the basis of TREC, quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) algorithms have been developed to produce high resolution forecast rainfall distribution maps over the local area. These maps provide useful objective guidance for forecasters to assess the likely rain scenario in the next few hours and to facilitate decision-making in operating the Rainstorm Warning System. This review, however, will focus on other aspects of TREC applications and some side benefits for operational mesoscale forecasting in Hong Kong. First, extension of the TREC technique to group tracking of echoes (GTrack) have enabled forecasters to make qualitative educated guesses of the likelihood of prolonged heavy rain or the potential of enhanced storm development. Secondly, extension of the QPF algorithms to a forecast range of 3 hours, supplemented by real-time accumulated rainfall data from a high density raingauge network, has enabled forecasters to provide reliable advice and guidance to geotechnical engineers for landslip risk assessment. Thirdly, rain-related applications aside, TREC vectors are also ingested into a data analysis system LAPS (Local Analysis and Prediction System) adapted from Forecast Systems Laboratory (FSL) of NOAA. Through the assimilation of TREC vectors and other wind observations, a three-dimensional wind structure of tropical cyclones can be generated in near real-time for forecasters' reference in assessing landfall impact.