Summary of the Vog Measurement and Prediction (VMAP) Project

Volcanic gas emissions pose significant environmental and health risks to nearby communities. In early 1983, the Kīlauea volcano began a prolonged eruption at a relatively remote vent, which emitted large volumes of sulfur dioxide gas and raised early and continuing worries about air quality and human health. The opening of a second vent at the volcano’s summit in early 2008 exacerbated these concerns by emitting gas directly into nearby and downwind communities.

Thus far, the risk posed by volcanic emission hazards has been mitigated by health officials and emergency managers through public education. The VMAP project is a long-term effort to offer another option for mitigation – accurate vog forecasting.

The first stage of the VMAP project has been funded by the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory through a cooperative agreement that ends on September 30, 2011. The purpose of this initial effort is to demonstrate that vog forecasting can be feasible and practical. Once completed, this tool should offer the public a useful way to avoid high concentrations of vog.

Planned upcoming changes include the following:

(i) adding a Hawaii domain graphic with clickable points for both the Hawaii regional and Island of Hawaii domain graphics;

(ii) adding wet deposition algorithms for sulfate aerosol within the vog model;

(iii) adding plume height algorithms; and

(iv) adding additional in-cloud chemistry algorithms to better account for conversion rates.

The VMAP project has several long term goals:

(1) create accurate and timely volcanic gas modeling and forecast capability to predict the concentration and dispersion of sulfur-dioxide gas and aerosol particles emitted by the Kilauea volcano based on state-of-the-art gas dispersion and numerical weather prediction (wind) models;

(2) cooperatively develop operational and near real-time volcanic gas emission rate measurement methods for use as input to the dispersion model;

(3) cooperatively develop and deploy an array of stationary sensors to record the spatial characteristics of Kilauea’s gas plume in high temporal and spatial resolution to be used for verification and improvement of the gas dispersion forecasting;

(4) develop an online data archive that comprises all existing volcanic gas concentration data and facilitate estimation of historical concentration frequency-of-exposure;

(5) characterize gas emissions from coastal lava flows entering the ocean for the purpose of establishing long-term monitoring;

(6) disseminate high-quality forecasts via the web, providing guidance for safety officials and to raise public awareness of potential hazards of volcanic emissions to respiratory health, agriculture, and general aviation; and

(7) to provide technical support for researchers and health professionals.

The Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HY-SPLIT) model will be used to produce comprehensive statewide forecasts of the concentration and dispersion of volcanic emissions. Wind fields and thermodynamic data from the state-of-the-art Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model, with a statewide resolution of 4.5 km and a resolution of 900 m covering the Island of Hawai‘i, will provide input for the HY-SPLIT model. A combination of remote sensing and in situ observations will be used to provide initial conditions regarding volcanic emissions for the dispersion model and to validate the model simulations.

VMAP stakeholders will collaborate in the development of the products disseminated by the project. These stakeholders include the Hawai‘i State Civil Defense (SCD), Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH), Clean Air Branch (CAB), the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Park Service (NPS).

Jeff Sutton


[ Top of this page ]