Hawaii volcano's gas gas gas probably won't reach NW
If you're worried about steam and ash from the eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano drifting on the Pacific jet stream into the Northwest, ala 1980's Mount St. Helens blast, don't sweat it. Any sulfur dioxide "vog" from the volcano probably would be too diluted by the time it landed in Oregon and Washington.
AccuWeather.com meteorologist Jim Andrews thinks it's possible — given the right weather conditions and wind direction — that some volcanic grit could get into the jet stream blowing into the Northwest, but it's unlikely to be dangerous or even noticeable.
"The vast distance would allow thorough mixing through a deep layer of atmosphere before any reached your area," Andrews said as Big Island U.S. Geological Survey officials nervously awaited a possible explosive Kilauea eruption of steam, ash and boulders. "Vog is extremely fine, much finer than ash, and it is erupting at a rate that is dwarfed by the likes of Mt. St. Helens and other such volcanoes."
When Mount St. Helens blew its top in May 1980, a plume of ash and smoke reached about a dozen miles into the air, sending a cloud of ash over most of the Northwest. Parts of Portland and Southwest Washington were coated into inches of ash that had to be cleared from city streets like drifting snow. Some of the ash even drifted on the jet stream into the Midwest and East Coast.
Kilauea's eruption probably won't create a mess like that, Andrews said, but it could allow concentrations of vog to settle over some of Hawaii's cities and towns on other islands.
Air stagnation ahead?
Vog is a smoggy haze formed when moisture, smoke, dust and gas from the volcano blend and float into the air. Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes, and the most active among the five volcanos that make up the Big Island of Hawaii. Lava from a May 3 eruption has spread nearly a dozen miles from the volcano's caldera near its peak into the Kilauea east rift zone, destroying nearly three dozen homes in the Leilani Estates near Hilo and forcing about 1,700 residents to flee.
Hundreds of earthquakes have rattled the region for the past month, signaling more eruptions.
During the next few days, AccuWeather.com reported that the island's northeast trade winds were containing most of the vog to the south and west parts of the Big Island. That could change late this week when the northeast winds sputter out and shifting winds spread the vog over much of the Big Island and into Maui, Lanai, Molokai and parts of Oahu.
"When the northeast trade winds diminish, the air may turn more humid and some air stagnation problems can occur on the islands," according to AccuWeather.com meteorologist Maggie Samuhel.
Even at low levels, the vog's sulfur dioxide could be a risk to people with respiratory problems and irritate the skin, eyes, nose, throat and lungs.