Just How Bad Is The VOG?

We’re starting to think that VOG, volcanic smog, may be a part of Hawaii’s landscape for the foreseeable future. It eminates from Mt. Kilauea on the Big Island, 250 miles south of Kauai, and has all the look and feel of real smog. The volcano has been belching more acid-rich air pollution than the dirtiest U.S. power plants for the past quarter century.

VOG’s health effects. Since 2001, a team of researchers headed by University of Hawaii’s medical school have been studying the impact of Hawaii’s VOG.  VOG from every volcano is unique, and Kilauea is renowned for an almost pure sulfur dioxide output.  Studies to date remain inconclusive. More long-term research is needed to accurately determine the health risks associated with Kilauea’s VOG.

Increased output. Since late 2007, the emissions have increased more than 200%, much of which just occurred in mid-March, when a new vent appeared.

Conclusion. There’s good news.  Prevailing trade winds keep the VOG off the south shore of the Big Island and away from the rest of the state more than 80% of the time. Unlike seasonal weather patterns, however, wind direction changes are not predictable. Once a pattern is established, it can continue for a week or more.

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