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Typhoon chasers use weibo to help public

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

08:25, August 09, 2012

It was the worst of times when Typhoon Haikui landed in Zhejiang province, and people hunkered down. But it was also the best of times for weather enthusiasts, who had been anxiously waiting for the deadly phenomenon since it formed on Aug 3.

Shao Jun, 24, was one of them.

"It's not often that a typhoon hits Shanghai, and that's why a few members of our club got excited and started to discuss questions such as how intense Haikui would be and where exactly it would land," said the young man, who works full time at an auto parts company in Shanghai.

Shao is also an active member of Fengyunhui, a weather enthusiasts' club organized by the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau.

"Some of us are fans of thunderstorms, and some of us get excited every time the record minimum temperature is broken because of cold air. But for me, it's always typhoons," said Shao, who started to develop an interest in weather, especially typhoons, after Matsa hit Shanghai in 2005.

Instead of taking pleasure in the suffering of Zhejiang and Shanghai because of Haikui, Shao believed his passion actually could help the public to better understand typhoons and better protect themselves.

"We posted all kinds of satellite cloud pictures and radar maps through weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) - not only those from official Chinese websites, but also figures from abroad, including the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts," he said. "Most importantly, we explained what's going on out there with the plainest language so that everybody could understand."

Regarding himself as an interpreter of professional meteorological vocabulary for the ordinary person, Shao said the role of weather enthusiasts is important for those who can't understand the weatherman.

"Our official weather forecast comes out slowly. Take Haikui as an example. It was formed on Aug 3, but Haikui didn't attract much local news until Aug 7, when it was on the verge of nearby cities," said Shao, adding that his group started to broadcast about Haikui six days ago.

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