The Kilauea eruptions on the Island of Hawaii are slowly subsiding, but are still ongoing, and many tourists have questions about the air quality, also known as Big Island vog (volcanic smog).
To address the issue of air quality, the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) will install 10 additional permanent air quality monitoring stations to measure fine particles (PM2.5) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) on Hawaii Island to enhance data collection efforts for vog conditions around the island. There are currently five permanent stations on Hawaii Island in Hilo, Mountain View, Pahala, Ocean View, and Kona.
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Although specific locations have not been determined, DOH has identified general areas where monitoring is needed, including South Kohala, North Kona, and South Kona on the west side of the island. When all of the stations are in place, DOH’s ambient air monitoring network will have a total of 25 stations statewide, including two National Park Service stations located at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The additional air quality monitoring stations will provide real-time data from different areas of the island so emergency responders can advise residents and visitors on appropriate actions they can take to protect their health and safety.
Air quality monitoring stations measure particulates, or pollution including ash in the air, and gases such as sulfur dioxide. Monitors closer to the Kilauea East Rift Zone also gauge levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air. Data are used primarily to provide air pollution updates to the public in a timely manner, identify trends, forecast air quality, correlate air quality to health effects, guide emergency management activities, and support air pollution studies.
Normally, trade winds blow through the islands in a northwest direction, which keeps the vog from the Big Island from passing through to the rest of the island chain. However, sometimes the trades shift to a southeasterly direction, and it is then that the vog wafts over to the other neighbor islands. This is a concern for all islands, especially Oahu, the most popular tourist destination in the Aloha State. Tourists can get updates on the air quality in Hawaii at this website.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority continues to post media stories and information as its updated on its Special Alert page to get the most recent information on the volcanic conditions on the island.
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