Does vog (volcanic smog) impact plants and animals?

The sulfuric acid droplets in vog have the corrosive properties of dilute battery acid. When vog mixes directly with moisture on the leaves of plants it can cause severe chemical burns, which can damage or kill the plants. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas can also diffuse through leaves and dissolve to form acidic conditions within plant tissue. Farmers on Hawai`i Island, particularly in the Ka`u District, have reported losses to agricultural crops and flowers as a result of high SO2 emissions from a gas vent at Kīlauea's summit. The Hawai`i Department of Agriculture has not received any reports of vog-related problems with animals. 

Learn more:


Related Content

Filter Total Items: 10
Filter Total Items: 5
Date published: May 18, 2017


Just like smog and fog, this EarthWord is not what you want to see while driving...

Date published: August 18, 2016

Living with Vog on an Active Volcano: New Resources

New informational products about the health hazards of volcanic air pollution known as “vog,” are available through a new interagency partnership.

Date published: October 5, 2015

EarthWord: Fumarole

Fumaroles are openings in the earth’s surface that emit steam and volcanic gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. They can occur as holes, cracks, or fissures near active volcanoes or in areas where magma has risen into the earth’s crust without erupting. A fumarole can vent for centuries or quickly go extinct, depending on the longevity of its heat source.

Date published: February 11, 2015

New Study Looks at How People Cope with Vog

A new study to examine how people who live downwind of Kīlauea Volcano cope with volcanic gas emissions, or vog, is currently underway.

Date published: June 20, 2007

Hazardous Sulfur Dioxide Concentrations Measured at Kilauea Volcano

Today, HVO scientists measured concentrations greater than 10 ppm in a broad area adjacent to Halema‘uma‘u crater. Sulfur Dioxide gas is persistently emitted at Kîlauea's summit. Typical concentrations are generally negligible except for areas downwind of Halema‘uma‘u crater, where they can get up to 2.5 ppm (parts-per-million) in narrow zones.

Filter Total Items: 17
White gas plume rising straight up from Kilauea Volcano summit with distant, bright, full moon.
August 16, 2016

With stagnant winds present, the plume from Halema`uma`u Crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano, stands straight up, showing off the distant, but bright, full moon.

scientist with camera and spectrometer at the edge of smoking volcanic crater.
August 16, 2016

USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geochemist measuring gases released from Kïlauea with a Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, an instrument that detects gas compositions on the basis of absorbed infrared light. The data obtained from FTIR measurements have been useful in identifying the many components of volcanic-gas emissions, which provide information on the quantity of magma circulating within an eruptive vent. The FTIR spectrometer is aimed at spattering area on summit lava lake surface to measure volcanic-gas composition.

Fumarole on Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaiʻi. Elemental sulfur vapor escaping from the fumarole has cooled to form yellow-colored crysta
April 14, 2016

Fumarole on Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaiʻi. Elemental sulfur vapor escaping from the fumarole has cooled to form yellow-colored crystals around its margins. Credit: Robert L. Christiansen.

Image: Monitoring Volcanic Gases on Kilauea's East Rift Zone
May 31, 2014

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Geochemist Jeff Sutton and CSAV international volcanology students visit a continuous gas monitoring site on Kilauea's east rift zone during field studies portion of the summer training course. Instrumentation at this site measures ambient concentration of noxious sulfur dioxide gas released from the volcano's vents, along with meteorological parameters, transmitting these data back to HVO in real time for display and analysis.

video thumbnail: Volcano Hazards
July 30, 2012

The United States has 169 active volcanoes. More than half of them could erupt explosively, sending ash up to 20,000 or 30,000 feet where commercial air traffic flies. USGS scientists are working to improve our understanding of volcano hazards to help protect communities and reduce the risks.

Video Sections:

  • Volcanoes: Monitoring Volcanoes
  • Volcanoes: National Volcano Early Warning System
  • Volcanoes: Science for Public Safety
May 9, 2012

USGS geologist, Angie Diefenbach, describes how she uses GIS, (Geographic Information Systems) software to study volcanic eruptions and their impacts on society.

June 30, 2011

We live at the bottom of an ocean of air. Most adults take around 29,000 breaths a day, children breathe a little faster; but what is in this air we breathe? What are the gases in the air? How much of each gas is there? Do these gases have different weights? How cold are liquid nitrogen and dry ice, and where did those names come from? Come join us to explore these questions at this family friendly presentation with hands-on experiments.

Speakers: Janet Hannon and Stan Mroczkowski

Image: Lava Flows Burning Vegetation
July 27, 2010

The front of this small finger of lava was almost to the sea cliff this morning, and was burning through low brush along the coastline.

Image: Sulfur Crystals
December 17, 2009

A beautiful example of sulfur crystals that have grown around a small fumarole near the southeast rim of Halema`uma`u crater. The vent is about 0.3 m (1 foot) long.