SOEST vog forecasting program continues with new funding

The Vog Measurement and Prediction (VMAP) project, led by SOEST atmospheric scientists, received three years of new funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to improve VMAP’s ability to provide statewide forecasts of volcanic smog, known locally as “vog,” and to expand delivery methods to include push notification to smartphones.

Sulfur dioxide and other gases released from Hawaiʻi’s volcanoes react in the atmosphere to produce vog.  During episodes of increased volcanic gas emission and stagnant atmospheric conditions, the vog concentration can produce significant impacts on community health and can create a visibility hazard for general aviation.

How vog affects human health is the topic of active research in which VMAP is an active partner.  Vog has been shown to exacerbate symptoms of asthma, sinusitis, and respiratory disease.

“The goal of the VMAP project is to mitigate the hazards associated with the emissions from Hawaiʻi’s volcanos to communities across the state through improved monitoring of volcanic emissions and the development and rapid dissemination of an accurate forecast of vog dispersion to the public,” said Steven Businger, atmospheric sciences professor and co-lead of the project.

Businger and co-lead Dr. Lacey Holland, SOEST researcher, are collaborating with the Hawai‘i State Civil Defense, the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the National Park Service on this effort.

“Since 2010, the VMAP program has been the only source of information regarding the concentration of vog emissions from Kīlauea affecting the State of Hawai‘i,” said Businger. “Historically, Kilauea erupts every ~2.5 years and Maunaloa erupts every ~7.5 year.  Thus, it is likely that there will be a new eruption of Mauna Loa and/or Kilauea within the next 5 years. This FEMA award will ensure we are ready when that happens.” 

Meanwhile, VMAP will research the 2018 eruption and model the impact of probable new vent locations, so that we will be able to provide push notifications via smartphones to stakeholders and affected public.