Vog forecasting critical during new Kīlauea eruption
The recent eruption activity on Kilauea has prompted renewed efforts by the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa's Vog Measurement and Prediction (VMAP) Project. The team's focus is to create forecasts of dispersion and trajectories of volcanic smog, referred to as vog, which are available in real time online.
This most recent eruption started on the evening of December 20. The U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected a glow within the Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano, indicating that an eruption had begun within the caldera. The water lake at the summit of Kīlauea boiled away with an effusive eruption and vents continue to generate lava, pouring into a growing lava lake at the base of the crater.
Early data from HVO suggest emission rates of up to 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day—significantly more than the 2,000 tons per day recorded in 2018, prior to the eruption of the Lower East Rift Zone. Vog is created when invisible sulfur dioxide gas reacts with oxygen, sunlight, moisture and other gases and particles in the air to produce visible sulfate aerosols within hours to days. Vog can produce significant impacts on community health and can create a visibility hazard for general aviation.
"Sulfur dioxide is expected to be the main problem in areas near the vent, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Pāhala, Na'alehu, Hawaiian Ocean View Estates; and sulfate aerosol is expected to be the main problem at locations far from the vent, Kona and farther north and west," said Steven Businger, professor in the UH Mānoa Department of Atmospheric Sciences and co-lead of the VMAP project. "The islands of Maui, Lāna'i, Molokaʻi, Oʻahu and Kauaʻi will be impacted when and if the large-scale surface winds blow from the southeast."
Earlier in 2020, Businger and atmospheric sciences researcher Lacey Holland received three years of additional funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, administered through the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health, to improve VMAP's ability to provide statewide forecasts of vog and to expand delivery methods to include push notification to smartphones.