UPDATE March 9, 2011
After a new vent on Hawaii's Big Island Kilauea Volcano opened (3rd vent), spewing lava and particulates in air, I received this email from a Chasing Clean Air reader in Maui.
"I'm afraid vog is now part of Maui as fog is to London or smog is to L.A. Until last week it was up to 8 times worse than 2008 but with the vent that opened yesterday it is 70 times as bad as 2009. Hawaii may be dying."
And below was my vog experience last March 25, 2010. I was in Hawaii for close to three weeks (Maui and Kauai) during which time I only experienced a negative reaction to vog in Kihei Maui once.
My lungs constricted walking to my favorite Kihei beach yesterday, the sort of tightness I associate with a bad smog day in Los Angeles. But this was Maui, where to date I'd only experienced what felt like very clean air.
So later I returned to my hotel room, went online, and learned from two separate sources that Kihei on Maui had elevated particulates in the air, and it was recommended for sensitive individuals (that's me) to refrain from outdoor activity.
The first source I checked was the United States Geological Survey, (they report on volcano hazards) which stated on their web site:
Today March 25, 2010 there is elevated volcanic eruption activity. Elevated SO2 emissions from two vents; lava visible in summit vent; lava flows from the East rift zone vents. Their warning stated: Volcano is exhibiting heightened or escalating unrest with increased potential of eruption, timeframe uncertain, or eruption is underway but poses limited hazards.
Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Volcano eruptions may impact air quality on Maui and other Hawaiian islands based on a variety of factors that include and are probably not limited to: degree of eruption, wind velocity, wind direction, and temperatures. (I know toxins and ozone in smog intensify with higher temperatures.)
According to residents, yesterday when I'd asked about wind direction, Kona winds were blowing north. I believe based on how my lungs felt, wind probably was carrying vog up the island chain, though to what degree I've no idea. (My lungs are very sensitive, which is how I came to start my clean air search.)
I was told that you know northerly Kona winds, in Kihei Maui anyway, when water comes toward land. And southerly trade winds, when water moves away from land, which would mean the Kona side on the Big Island would get more vog if eruptions were happening.
The second source I checked was The state of Hawaii's Department of Health clean air branch, which had an online air quality data stating that as of 9 a.m. Kihei air quality monitors picked up fine particulates and issued a yellow warning that states: When I just went back to get their yellow warning, page was down.
I then called an environmental health specialist in the clean air branch of the state of Hawaii's Dept. of Health and I'll post results of that Maui air quality interview on this post and probably a new article too on another day, for I'm getting ready to travel.
Overall, I experienced, what felt to my sensitive lungs, to be very clean air on Maui and Kauai. Yesterday was the only day that I felt air quality was compromised, and my research confirmed that nowhere is perfect all the time. So if you have lung sensitivities and you will be visiting the Hawaiian islands, bring your meds/inhaler just in case vog compromises good air quality.
Photo I took yesterday during time my lungs felt uncomfortable. I believe the haze in the distance was vog. I'm told it can get worse and hide islands/mountains but my sensitive lungs picked it up anyway.
If interested, click here to read my piece called What is Vog?
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