KILAUEA VOLCANO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Vog. It's a problem that persists for not only residents on the Big Island, but for those across the entire state.
The vog — or volcanic smog — originates from gas plumes from the Kilauea volcano, which creates a blanket of hazy air that can sometimes travel to the other islands.
So as eruptions continue at Kilauea's east rift zone, many residents are wondering: Just how bad is the vog and how will it affect me?
Vog consists of sulfur dioxide, along with water vapor, hydrogen and other gas particles. And officials are warning of dangerously higher levels of sulfur dioxide gas -- which can be particularly dangerous for those with asthma or other breathing conditions -- in the Leilani Estates area.
"It gets converted from a gas – sulfur dioxide -- to a sulfate aerosol," said Steven Businger, professor of meteorology at the University of Hawaii. "The sulfate aerosol is something which can be breathed in and cause asthma and other problems for people who have respiratory problems."
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The trade winds have been keeping the vog away from the rest of the island chain, but since winds will turn southeasterly by Thursday, the other islands could start to see more vog. And with the recent eruptions, it will change the air quality for residents – but only slightly.
"It does increase the amount of vog we have in the air, but not by as much as one might expect," he said. "It increases it by more like 10 percent."
Conditions would be a lot worse, he said, if the Big Island's other active volcano were to erupt.
"If the summit of Mauna Loa were to erupt, for example, which it's overdue, we could see a lot more vog," Businger said.
In addition to those with respiratory issues, people with heart disease, the elderly, children, new and expectant mothers are all at a greater risk. The gas can cause burning sensations in the eyes, nose, throat, skin and lungs.
Officials say any residents entering Leilani Estates to pick up their belongings must be on alert for elevated sulfur dioxide levels.