Hawaii volcano: Acid rain will fall, but it won’t be harmful — and ‘vog’ is in the forecast
Take a look inside the crater of an active volcano in Hawaii.
Acid rain is likely to fall from the skies in Hawaii over the next few days — but scientists say it won’t be harmful and is far from the main volcano hazard residents should worry about.
Instead, it’s breathing the noxious gases and avoiding the lava from the erupting Kilauea volcano that should be their main concerns.
University of Hawaii meteorologist Steven Businger told Hawaii News Now there’s not much of a health hazard associated with acid rain for most residents, saying “it’s really about the least of their worries.”
He says it is not concentrated enough to really have much effect on most people’s skin, eyes or hair.
Sasha Madronich, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, agreed, saying that the level of acid in the rain would be so small that it won’t be perceptible: “I wouldn’t expect people there would feel any acidity.”
Walking in acid rain, or even swimming in a lake affected by acid rain, is no more dangerous to humans than walking in normal rain or swimming in non-acidic lakes, the Environmental Protection Agency said.
Madronich said one problem from acid rain would be when it falls on metal — which then would dissolve and seep into the ground, potentially affecting trees.
He said it could also cause metal rooftops to rust more quickly. It can also damage cars, as well as statues and monuments, the EPA said.
And as the rain falls, it would tend to become less acidic, he added.
Residents flee poisonous air
In addition to lava, the volcano in Hawaii is belching out a noxious mix of poisonous gases, including sulfur dioxide.
It’s those gases that have forced about 2,000 people to flee their homes. On Tuesday, police went door-to-door in Hawaii to roust residents near two new volcanic vents emitting dangerous gases.
Low levels of sulfur dioxide can add to the risks of people with respiratory problems and could cause health issues in other people.
At its worst, sulfur dioxide can be a killer: “Concentrated levels of sulfur dioxide, from smog, killed thousands during December 1952 in London,” according to AccuWeather meteorologist Faith Eherts.
The U.S. Geological Survey said sulfur dioxide gas and other pollutants emitted from Kilauea react with oxygen and atmospheric moisture to produce volcanic smog (vog) — and acid rain.
‘Vog’ in the forecast
Vog, short for volcanic smog, is the haze formed by gas and fine particle emissions from volcanoes, according to the American Meteorological Society.
It forms when moisture is present, and it contains smoke, dust and gases from the volcano.
At higher concentrations, vog can cause headaches and irritation to the lungs and eyes, the University of Hawaii at Hilo told CNN.
Vog is a fairly common weather phenomena in Hawaii, and a National Weather Service forecast from Wednesday said that because of a wind shift, vog from the Big Island will begin to head north toward the other islands by Friday.
“The southeasterly flow of air may be enough to allow pollutants, including low levels of sulfur dioxide from the erupting Kilauea vents, to spread northwestward across the smaller islands including Maui, Lanai, Molokai and perhaps Oahu, according to AccuWeather.
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