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USGS Release – Living with Vog on an Active Volcano: New Resources

New informational products about the health hazards of volcanic air pollution known as “vog,” are available through a new interagency partnership.

With stagnant winds present, the plume from Halema`uma`u Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano, stands straight up, showing off the distant, but bright, full moon.  Photo taken 8/16/2016

With stagnant winds present, the plume from Halema`uma`u Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano, stands straight up, showing off the distant, but bright, full moon. Photo credit: Michael Poland, U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Photo taken 8/16/2016

The products include a booklet of frequently asked questions, a brochure and poster about protecting yourself during vog episodes and a web-based “dashboard” that provides comprehensive links to a wide range of vog resources, including vog forecasts and air-quality information.

Communities downwind from Kīlauea Volcano’s active vents frequently experience vog as a visible haze or as a sulfurous smell or taste. People exposed to vog report a variety of symptoms, such as eye irritation, coughing, wheezing, sore throats and headaches. The new products were co-developed by U.S. Geological Survey scientists Tamar Elias and Jeff Sutton at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, John Peard and other officials at the Hawaii Department of Health, and Claire Horwell from Durham University in the United Kingdom, with participation by Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense and other agencies.

Peard, with Hawaii DOH said, “The diverse partnership has allowed us to develop new, consistent products that more fully address the needs of the community.”

“The products offer advice on vog protection measures, such as staying indoors, limiting physical activity, and staying hydrated when vog levels are high. Providing relevant, up-to-date information to a population living with decades of an ongoing volcanic eruption may help people to better cope with the frequent vog conditions,” said Horwell.

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geochemist measuring gases released from Kïlauea with a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, an instrument that detects gas compositions on the basis of absorbed infrared light. credit: Janet Babb, U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geochemist measuring gases released from Kïlauea with a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, an instrument that detects gas compositions on the basis of absorbed infrared light. credit: Janet Babb, U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

The new, mobile-friendly vog dashboard is hosted by the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network, a clearinghouse for information on the health impacts of volcanic eruptions. All of the new Hawaiʻi vog products are available online, and are accessible through the dashboard.

Vog, the pollution formed from acidic gases and particles released by active volcanoes, is composed primarily of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas and its oxidation products, such as sulfate aerosol.  Sulfur dioxide from Kīlauea Volcano, now in its 34th year of nearly continuous eruption, leads to the vog that challenges communities, agriculture, and infrastructure on the Island of Hawai‘i and across the state. Scientists at USGS HVO regularly monitor the quantity and composition of gases released from Kīlauea. Among other things, HVO data are used as input for vog models that forecast the volcanic plume dispersion and vog locations.

Horwell’s previous study in 2015, investigated how Hawaiian communities perceive vog, how they protect themselves, and their preferences for receiving advice. The results from the study support the need for consistent online advice from all federal, state and local agencies; increased access to web- and non-web-based information on vog exposure and protection; and updated guidance on how to access resources about vog. HVO’s long involvement in vog studies, coupled with the community studies about perception and needs, led to the development of the new vog informational products.

For more information about Kīlauea Volcano’s ongoing eruptions, please visit HVO’s website, or network with others on the ‘Vog Talk’ Facebook group.

VOG “Tasting Party” at the Lyman Museum

As Kīlauea’s current eruption continues to produce enough lava to fill a football stadium every week or so, it also releases huge amounts of volcanic gases, which are converted in the atmosphere to the vog (volcanic smog) that impacts our island environment.

Photo courtesy of Andrew J. Sutton showing volcanic gases boil out of the lava lake within Kilauea’s summit     “Overlook Vent,” to form the visible vog plume being carried to the southwest and up the Kona coast by trade winds in this 2008 USGS-HVO photograph.

Photo courtesy of Andrew J. Sutton showing volcanic gases boil out of the lava lake within Kilauea’s summit
“Overlook Vent,” to form the visible vog plume being carried to the southwest and up the Kona coast by trade winds in this 2008 USGS-HVO photograph.

On Monday, January 18, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Lyman Museum, Jeff Sutton, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory gas geochemist, tells us everything we always wanted to know about volcanic gases, vog, and how they affect people, land, and our island infrastructure. Jeff will also host a “volcanic gas tasting party” at which you can identify specific volcanic gases using your sense of smell!

The nationally accredited and Smithsonian-affiliated Lyman Museum showcases the natural and cultural history of Hawai`i. Located in historic downtown Hilo at 276 Haili Street, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Admission to this program is free to Museum members, $3 for nonmembers. For additional information, call (808) 935-5021 or visit www.lymanmuseum.org.

The VOG Measurement and Prediction Project (VMAP)

Have you ever wondered which way the VOG was blowing on the Big Island and how much Sulfur Dioxide is being emitted into the air?  Well the VOG Measurement and Prediction Project (VMAP) might be of assistance.

Is it possible or practical to predict vog? The Vog Measurement and Prediction Project (VMAP) is a feasibility study in which scientists will evaluate [are evaluating] whether vog forecasts are achievable and useful. Project collaborators are making the feasibility study available to the public through this Web site, but as an ongoing investigation, VMAP currently provides limited service and reliability. Thus, VMAP users should have no expectation of accuracy or timeliness, and project data should not be used for decision making purposes at this time. Comments and inquiries can be directed to the appropriate contact.

Vog is primarily a mixture of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas and sulfate (SO4) aerosol. SO2 (invisible) reacts with oxygen and moisture in the air to produce SO4 aerosol (visible). SO2 is expected to be the main problem in areas near the vent (Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Pahala, Na`alehu, Hawaiian Ocean View Estates) and SO4 aerosol is expected to be the main problem at locations far from the vent (Kona and farther north and west).

Vog Model

The model output animation and accompanying forecast table is generated using the HYSPLIT numerical dispersion model. The model uses estimates of volcano emissions along with forecast winds to predict the concentrations of sulfur dioxide gas (SO2) and sulfate aerosol particles (SO4) downwind of the ongoing Kilauea eruption. This is a research effort that is in progress.

Click here for model statistics. For a history of the VMAP model parameters, click here.

Here is the what the Big Island is looking like: