Meteorology is a science of physical processes. But to Lam Chiu-ying, director of the Hong Kong Observatory, predicting the weather has always been the most human of endeavours. 'What we do is not just science,' he said, 'but to think of how to incorporate what we find into society so that it will have an effect.' Mr Lam cites an experience he had on a visit to Cambodia in 2000 to illustrate his point. The weather service issued the day's forecast at 9am, but the report had to be taken, by moped, to an official for signature - 'of course, there was a queue to see the official' - and then to the television station, where there were more delays. 'In the end, the morning's forecast was broadcast on the evening news.' As an assistant director of the Observatory, Mr Lam pushed forward measures, such as cold and hot weather warnings, that made forecasting more relevant. France is following suit by introducing such warnings after 10,000 people died in last year's record heat wave. 'At the time my colleagues didn't understand why we were doing it,' Mr Lam said. 'We are like everyone's grandma. We do some very funny things, like telling people to go visit elderly relatives who are living alone. Sometimes people ask if I represent the Observatory or the Social Welfare Department.' Yet Hong Kong society wants this level of service - 'they expect you to solve all their problems'. That, and the quirks of the weather, makes forecasting a perpetually challenging job for Mr Lam. The job may be easier in this age of remote observation stations and complex mathematical models, but Mr Lam has to experience the weather conditions for himself. 'At the office I will push open the door and go out to the balcony to feel the wind. I'm still one of the old-school weather forecasters. I have to sense the wind blowing in my face,' he said. 'They say you can see it in the radar pictures, too, but I believe that, at the bottom of it, you have to have a feel for things in your heart. Numbers by themselves are dead.' The weather is not all that moves Mr Lam. He is a 20-year veteran of birdwatching, a hobby that inspires him in a way similar to his weather watching. 'In the process of observation there will always be new discoveries,' Mr Lam, president of the Hong Kong Birdwatching Society, said. 'There are discoveries of new knowledge, and also new feelings.' Sometimes there is the projection of what I feel into what I see, and sometimes it's the opposite, what I see triggers my emotions.' One no longer views the bird - or thundercloud - as simply an object. 'There is an interaction, your eyes lock with those of the bird, and you get into another world,' he said. 'Ultimately, I know that I am happier than many people because I can see myself as part of a much bigger whole.'