Kīlauea: Laze among new dangers to Hawaii's Big Island this week
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
May 23, 2018, 3:07:22 AM EDT
Share this article:
Residents on Hawaii's Big Island are facing a new danger this week now that lava has entered the ocean: laze - a mix of hydrochloric acid, steam and fine glass particles.
In the past two weeks, nearly two dozen new fissures opened up and spewed lava and poisonous gas into residential areas on and surrounding the Kīlauea dome.
More residents were forced to evacuate on Saturday evening as brush fires triggered by the lava flows threatened homes, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
Residents also endured more hardships overnight Saturday as the lava crossed Highway 137, the main evacuation route for Lower Puna, and Pohoiki Road, which cut off the water supply.
Another eruption occurred at the summit on Monday evening, sending an ash plume high into the atmosphere and further elevating gas levels downwind of the volcano.
The danger for laze arose as two lava flows entered the ocean.
"Laze is formed when hot lava hits the ocean, sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air," the agency stated. "Health hazards of laze include lung, eye and skin irritation."
Northeasterly winds will continue to confine the risk of exposure to the laze and vog to Hawaii's Big Island this week.
What are northeasterly trade winds?
The northeasterly trade winds are a nearly continuous belt of winds that blow from the northeast in the tropical part of the Northern Hemisphere.
Many Hawaiians accept their fate at the hands of a fire, land-devouring goddess amid Kīlauea eruptions
Will insurance cover lava damage in Hawaii?
Hawaii residents scrambling for respirators government says won't keep them safe
Scientists reflect on the catastrophic 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption
The trades will tend to limit the concentration of vog and laze mainly to the southern and western portions of the Big Island this week.
What is vog and what are the risks from it?
Vog is low-level smog or haze that forms when moisture is present and contains smoke, dust and gases from a volcanic eruption. In the case of Kīlauea, these pollutants are being produced by the many fissures.
Vog contains sulfuric compound gases such as sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid. The amount of sulfur dioxide emissions tripled on Sunday, the Civil Defense Agency reported.
Sulfur dioxide irritates the skin as well as the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. The symptoms can include pain when taking a deep breath, coughing, throat irritation and breathing difficulties.
Sulfuric acid can damage metal and painted finishes over time.
These gases can be dangerous for any people, but especially those with respiratory problems, young children and the elderly.
Vog is not the only airborne threat from Kīlauea
An explosive eruption occurred on Thursday, May 17. The ash cloud was initially forced up to 30,000 feet into the atmosphere. A smaller eruption followed on Friday night with the ash cloud reaching up to near 7,000 feet. A similar eruption occurred on Sunday night.
"Additional explosive events that could produce minor amounts of ashfall downwind are possible at any time," the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory stated. "Volcanic gas emissions at the summit remain high."
In addition to the risk of damage to lungs and suffocation in extreme cases, even a small amount of volcanic ash can damage and shut down aircraft jet engines since it is an abrasive that contains glass, crushed rocks and gases, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The higher the ash clouds gets, the greater the danger to aircraft on a regional basis due to stronger winds aloft distributing the plume over a larger area.
The trajectory of the ash cloud will be determined by the duration and height of any future eruption and the winds at the level the ash cloud reaches.
"Any weaker eruptions into midweek would generally lead to ash being confined to areas around and to the southwest of the volcano," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski. "A stronger eruption could lead to the ash cloud being dispersed over more of the Big Island."
May 21 #HVO #Kilauea summit report: Small explosion at 12:55 AM HST at Halema'uma'u crater & produced an ash plume that reached about 7,000 ft asl, carried by the wind to SW. More explosions & minor downwind ashfall possible at any time. https://t.co/7sDZqcOJ5s #KilaueaErupts pic.twitter.com/m9NLTLcNl1— USGS Volcanoes🌋 (@USGSVolcanoes) May 21, 2018
Rocks that occasionally fall into the fissures and craters can be ejected over long distances without notice and pose significant risk to bystanders.
What lies ahead?
Eruptions of varying severity are likely to continue in the near future.
However, when Kīlauea will return to its more passive state prior to May is not known. Dangerous eruptions may continue for days, weeks and months.
Most days through the summer, the northeasterly trade winds will confine the risk of vog and ash from minor eruptions to the southern and western part of the Big Island.
"The trade wind pattern is expected to prevail into the Memorial Day holiday weekend, " Pydynowski said.
However, periodic shifts in the wind may allow some distribution of both vog and any ash farther to the northwest across the island chain.
While high-altitude clouds and gases from massive volcanic eruptions in the past have had an effect on climate around the globe, the ash plume from Kīlauea has not yet been forced high enough in the atmosphere to have significant impact.
Kīlauea, located on the southern part of Hawaii's Big Island, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
This volcano has a dome structure and has different eruptions when compared to other types of volcanoes. For example, Mount St. Helens has a steep cone structure and is subject to very violent explosions after long periods of dormancy.
Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.
More Weather News
Live updates: Over 500 accidents reported in North Carolina as snowstorm produces hazardous travel conditions
Weather News - December 09, 2018, 8:36:52 PM EST
A major snowstorm, which has already buried parts of North Carolina with over a foot of snow, will continue to cause travel disruptions and power outages into Sunday evening.
Weather News - December 09, 2018, 4:41:09 PM EST
The northeastern U.S. is in the midst of a rare dry spell, though it is expected to come to a soaking end later this week.
Weather News - December 09, 2018, 11:23:50 AM EST
An area of disturbed weather in the Bay of Bengal may develop into a tropical cyclone later this week and could impact southern India around mid-month.
Weather News - December 09, 2018, 1:35:44 PM EST
A major, travel-disrupting storm is unleashing snow and ice from Tennessee to North Carolina and Virginia.
Weather News - December 09, 2018, 10:58:00 AM EST
Dry, milder weather is expected for clean-up efforts across the southern U.S. following a dose of heavy snow, ice and flooding rainfall.
Weather News - December 08, 2018, 10:47:23 AM EST
Bitter cold will continue to have a firm grip on eastern Asia through at least this weekend, forcing residents to bundle up and leading to snow opportunities.
Weather News - December 08, 2018, 10:33:40 AM EST
Extreme weather will continue across parts of Queensland into Sunday as record-breaking heat and bushfires are replaced by flooding rainfall and strong winds.
Weather News - December 08, 2018, 10:30:06 AM EST
Bouts of strong winds will raise the risk for local power outages, tree damage and travel disruptions across northern Europe into Sunday.