USGS EarthWord of the Week
EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!
The EarthWord: Vog
Vog refers to the visible haze comprised of gas, tiny particles and acidic droplets created when sulfur dioxide and other gases emitted from a volcano chemically interact with sunlight and atmospheric oxygen, moisture, and dust.
Get ready, because this word’s pretty recursive. Vog is a contraction of volcanic smog, while smog is itself a pormanteau of smoke and fog.
Smoke likely comes from the Proto-Germanic smuk, which referred to the fumes given off from something burning.
Meanwhile fog comes from Scandinavian words for “snowstorm,” like the Danish fog and Norwegian fjuk.
Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:
Vog is one of the side-effects of volcanic activity that can have a negative effect on humans and other wildlife. While not as immediate a threat as pyroclastic flow or lava, it can still lead to health effects, like aggravating existing respiratory conditions.
Physical complaints associated with vog exposure include headaches, breathing difficulties, increased susceptibility to respiratory ailments, watery eyes, sore throat, flu-like symptoms, and a general lack of energy.
Tiny droplets of sulfuric acid in vog creates acid rain, which can leach lead from roofing and plumbing materials, such as nails, paint, solder, and metal flashings. Leached lead poses a health hazard when it contaminates drinking water in rooftop rainwater-catchment systems.
Finally, vog can make it difficult to see while driving, piloting an airplane, or navigating a ship.
USGS scientists, along with health professionals and local government officials are working together to better understand volcanic air pollution and to enhance public awareness of this hazard.
Next EarthWord: This EarthWord isn’t a new dance-move; it’s been around since we’ve had tectonic plates...
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