Never Trust Anyone Over 30: Mitigation Strategies for Adapting to Three Decades of Persistent Degassing at Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai‘i
Abstract:As Kīlauea Volcano approaches its 33rd year of nearly continuous activity, simultaneous summit and rift eruptions continue to challenge island populations, agriculture, and infrastructure with elevated levels of acidic gases and particles. In 2008, the opening of a new summit vent attended a ten- to one hundred- fold increase in SO2 summit emissions which, combined with the ongoing east rift emissions, resulted in the highest combined annual SO2 release since regular measurements began in 1979. While the overall emissions have decreased in a step-wise manner since 2008, this large local source still contributes 20-60% of the SO2 emitted by all stationary fuel combustion sources in the U.S., and ~ 7-20% of the estimated time-averaged annual global volcanogenic SO2 contribution.
Research on the long-term health and environmental effects of chronic exposure to volcanic pollution is ongoing in Hawai‘i. Public health statistics suggest that incidences of respiratory emergency increased coincident with the onset of the summit eruption. From 2008-2011, Hawaii County received a Disaster Designation by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture due to agricultural losses from the effects of volcanic emissions.
A multifaceted approach is being used to address the current gas and particle hazards and to mitigate the impacts to affected areas. Multi-agency websites are providing forecast and real-time data regarding acid particle and SO2 gas concentrations to help people minimize their exposures. The short-term concentration data is linked to color-coded health-advisory levels developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawaii State Department of Health, with input from the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey. Questions remain, however, on the appropriateness of the designated advisory levels for protecting chronically exposed populations, and if these tools are sufficiently useful to Hawai‘i residents and visitors. Other mitigation efforts include community-based health interventions, indoor engineering controls, and innovations and relief programs within the agricultural sector.