Should I cancel my plans to visit to Hawai`i Island because of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and vog?

Predicting the vog levels that visitors might experience during a short stay in Hawai`i is as difficult as predicting the weather. Once volcanic emissions are in the atmosphere, they are distributed by prevailing winds. Where and how bad the vog is ultimately depends on several factors including wind direction, wind speed, air temperature, humidity, and rainfall, as well as the location of the source and amount of SO2 being emitted from the volcano. 

For normally healthy people, the level of vog typically experienced along the Kona coast on Hawai`i Island—especially for short-term exposures such as a week of vacation—can be more annoying than life-threatening. However, if you have existing heart and/or respiratory ailments or other conditions that compromise your physical health, or if you are pregnant, you should check with your personal physician for advice about traveling to any location with poor air quality.

If vog reaches levels that are potentially hazardous to human health, Hawai`i County Civil Defense issues advisories via their website and radio broadcasts and, if necessary, calls for voluntary or mandatory evacuations.

Whether or not you should cancel your trip to Hawai`i Island is a personal decision that only you can make. The Hawaii Interagency Vog Information website has a great deal of information. Also see the EPA's AirNow website.

Related Content

Filter Total Items: 17
Image: Vog from Kilauea
January 31, 2008

Vog from Kilauea

The rim of Kīlauea Volcano’s summit caldera, normally clear on trade-wind days (left), became nearly obscured by vog (right) on some non-trade wind days beginning in 2008, when sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano’s summit increased to unusually high levels. (This photo has been edited.)

Image shows two scientists on the slopes of Mount St. Helens with steam rising around them
September 24, 1981

Gas Sampling around the Mount St. Helens Dome

USGS geologists gathered samples by hand from vents on the dome and crater floor. Additionally, sulfur dioxide gas was measured from a specially equipped airplane before, during, and after eruptions to determine "emission rates" for the volcano.

USGS
June 30, 2011

The Air We Breathe…It’s a Gas!

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

...
Image: Halema'uma'u Vent Gas Plume

Halema'uma'u Vent Gas Plume

Kilauea's active summit vent is on the southeast side of Halema'uma'u Crater. In this photo, the floor of Halema'uma'u stretches out beyond the vent, and the summit of Kilauea Volcano is at upper right. The observation tower at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is the highest bump in the photo at Kilauea's summit.