By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
VOLCANO, Hawaii - Scientists at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory have developed a warning system that provides continual updates on the levels of potentially dangerous volcanic gases in the air.
Jeff Sutton, a geochemist at the observatory, said the system still is evolving and is being used so far only at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It probably is not refined enough yet to be used elsewhere because of the Big Islands many mini-climate zones, he said.
Vog - a term created by local residents to describe volcanic smog - is the result of Kilauea Volcanos eruption at Puu ø that started Jan. 3, 1983. Acid sulfate particulates contained in vog are a threat to thousands of Big Island residents and others around the state who suffer from respiratory ailments.
Most vog warnings are based on visual observations of the morning horizon and a "taste test" for sulfur dioxide gases released by the volcano.
Now, the observatory has established two automatic recording stations that measure the gases that eventually push toward the southern and western sides of the island and sometimes move to other islands.
A major benefit of the new warning system in place at Volcanoes National Park headquarters and the observatory overlooking Kilauea Caldera is that the readings are continuous, allowing rangers to cancel hikes and other activities should vog conditions worsen.
The observatory operates the Vog Hotline on the Big Island, providing a daily index based on a scale of zero to 10. The higher the number, the worse the vog conditions.
The hot line, which operates weekdays only, can be reached at (808) 885-7143.
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