Information for visitors to Hawaiʻi island
In light of the new eruptive activities of Kīlauea Volcano, the following information may be useful to visitors planning a trip to Hawai‘i Island or State. Last updated 30 May 2018.
For latest eruption information:
What is happening at Kīlauea Volcano?
- Fissure eruptions: In early May 2018, new fissure eruptions began on the Lower East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano, in the Puna district, on Hawai‘i Island. The fissures are producing lava flows which are locally destructive, however, the flows and fissures themselves, are not directly affecting any other part of the island or State.
- Summit activity: At the summit of the volcano, the level of the lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u crater has dropped, and the lake is no longer visible. There are multiple earthquakes under the summit and nearby. Intermittent ash emissions and explosions are occurring.
How are these eruptions affecting visitors?
- Lower East Rift Zone fissure eruption: Emergency officials have asked the general public to avoid the area directly involved in this eruption, due to potential road closures, emergency response and evacuation activities, and hazardous gases.
- Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park: Two-thirds of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is currently closed due to summit eruptive activity. The Park’s Kahuku Unit is open, and is located one-hour’s drive south of the Park’s main entrance https://www.nps.gov/havo/2018-closure.htm. Be sure to check current air quality conditions before heading to Kahuku. The area is sometimes impacted by volcanic gas, particles, and ashfall. The National Historic Parks in West Hawai‘i are open as usual.
- Air quality impacts: Volcanic pollution on the island is an ongoing condition that accompanies the eruption of Kīlauea, and has been present over the last 35 years. Currently, this pollution is mainly composed of:
- SO2 gas and fine particles (PM2.5): from Kīlauea’s fissure and summit eruptions. Also known as ‘vog’. Fine particles are largely responsible for the visible haze observed downwind of the vents.
- Ash particles: from the summit ash explosions and emissions.
- Laze: the acidic steam plume generated from lava flowing into the ocean. This plume is laden with hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass particles, but is local to the area around the ocean entry site.
- Smoke: from vegetation being burned by lava flows.
- Volcanic glass: generally local to the area around the fissures.
How bad is the air quality?
- The distribution of volcanic pollution and ash on Hawai‘i island is controlled by wind speed and direction. Prevailing northeasterly trade winds blow volcanic emissions to the southwest, where they wrap around the southern part of the island, and are trapped by daytime onshore and nighttime offshore sea breezes along the Kona coast.
- Air quality north of Kailua-Kona is less frequently impacted by volcanic pollution under these conditions (see figure 2).
- When trade winds are absent, volcanic pollution may affect East Hawai‘i, the entire island, or State.
- Particle and SO2 gas concentrations can reach levels that occur from human-caused pollution in large urban areas. However, vog is mainly SO2 and acid particles, whereas urban, industrial, and other pollution contain additional toxic contaminants, such as ozone and hydrocarbons.
- The areas surrounding Kīlauea Volcano’s summit, and directly downwind, are most likely to be heavily impacted by ashfall. However, large events may affect areas much further away. Ash was reported 10s of miles away from the Kīlauea summit during the 1924 explosive eruptions.
- Currently, ‘hazardous’ air quality can be encountered directly adjacent to the eruption sites in the Lower East Rift Zone. These are the areas within the box in figure 1.
- Other areas on Hawai‘i Island can experience gas and particle concentrations which reach the Hawaii State Department of Health and EPA’s ‘moderate’, ‘unhealthy for sensitive groups’ or ‘unhealthy’ categories, depending on wind conditions.
Where can I find air quality data and forecasts so that I can see for myself?
What are the health impacts of being exposed to vog?
- SO2 gas is a strong irritant that can be a concern, especially to those that are particularly ‘sensitive’ like people with pre-existing respiratory disorders (e.g. asthma) or cardiovascular disease. Please see the Interagency Vog Dashboard to learn about the possible health impacts of vog and who is most likely to be affected: https://vog.ivhhn.org/health-effects-vog.
- To learn more about the health impacts of volcanic ash, please see: https://www.ivhhn.org/ash-pamphlets
Can you tell me if I should come to Hawai‘i?
- Large portions of Hawai‘i Island, as well as the rest of the State, are generally not impacted by the current eruptive activity. The above information has been written to help you make an informed decision as IVHHN/the Vog Dashboard moderators cannot comment on people’s individual situations. If you have specific health concerns, please discuss the above information with your medical practitioner.
- The Vog Talk Facebook group provides a venue for community members to share information.
- George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has said “We understand the concern some travelers may have about coming to Hawaii while Kīlauea volcano is so much more active at this time. But we encourage everyone to do their research and rely on trusted federal, state and county resources that are providing truthful, accurate information about what is taking place in Hawaii.” http://www.hawaiitourismauthority.org/news/special-alert/
Visiting Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park
Two-thirds of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (HVNP) is currently closed. The Park’s Kahuku Unit is open, and is located one-hour’s drive south of the Park’s main entrance https://www.nps.gov/havo/2018-closure.htm. Be sure to check current air quality conditions before heading to Kahuku (see links #1 and #2 below). The area is sometimes impacted by volcanic gas and ashfall. Pay attention to park warnings and follow park advisories: https://www.nps.gov/havo. (Last updated 30 May 2018).
Those with pre-existing respiratory conditions should have their medications available when visiting the Park, as air quality can reach unhealthy levels very quickly.
3. HVNP current air quality
Map showing approximate location of the Halemaʻumaʻu and Puʻu ʻŌʻō gas plumes in HVNP, SO2 concentrations (ppm) at nine locations, and PM2.5 at two locations in the park.
4. National Park Sevice (NPS) site
Graphical and table displays of air quality (SO2, PM2.5), weather and webcams in HVNP
5. HVNP air quality page
Explanation of how air quality affects HVNP and what NPS is doing to monitor and evaluate air quality in the Park