'Snowflakes' just melted hailstones, says Observatory

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 February, 1998, 12:00am

Weather forecasters yesterday poured cold water on reports of snow falling on Hong Kong Island.

They said the 'flakes' were partially melted hailstones caused by recent thunderstorms.

Scores of people called the Observatory to report hail and snow falling on south and east Hong Kong Island, Wan Chai, Tuen Mun and Kam Tin. Many of the reports said some of the hailstones were two centimetres in diameter.

An Observatory spokesman said: 'When the lower part of the atmosphere is relatively cool, hailstones falling from within clouds do not have sufficient time to melt into raindrops. Some may be only partially melted and look like snowflakes.' In post-war years there have been 27 reports of hail in the territory, falling once every two years.

Dr Bill Kyle, of Hong Kong University's Department of Geography, said the conditions resulted from an unusual short and mild winter brought on by the El Nino weather phenomenon. Dr Kyle believes it would be almost impossible for snow to fall on Hong Kong.