For more information about National Park Service air resources, please visit https://www.nature.nps.gov/air/.


Scenic views and native vegetation images from parks within Pacific Islands Network Network

Studies and Monitoring

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park (NP), Hawai'i, has its own unique environmental concerns based on its particular ecology. Air quality studies and monitoring programs at Hawai'i Volcanoes NP focus on volcanic emissions and potential human health effects. Click on the tabs below to review air quality studies and key scientific references for Hawai'i Volcanoes NP, as well as to access information on air quality monitoring in the park.

  • Studies & Projects
  • Monitoring & Data
  • Key References

Ongoing Research in Hawai'i Volcanoes NP, Hawai'i:

Air quality in Hawai’i Volcanoes NP is affected by a number of emission sources, primarily Kilauea Volcano. Kilauea's nearly continuous emission of sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas each day results in volcanic air pollution downwind of the volcano. The SO2 in eruption plumes reacts with oxygen, water, and particles in the air to form the sulfuric acid droplets and solid sulfate particles that produce vog, or volcanic smog, and corrosive acid rain. The vog is very acidic, causing acid rain and affecting human health, cultural resources, and vegetation. Vog also creates a haze which obscures visibility. Adding to the haze are marine aerosols, which can further diminish visibility. Vog damages crops and can aggravate preexisting respiratory ailments (Orr et al. 2013).

The volcano also emits other gases, including hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, and mercury. In addition, when hot lava reaches sea water, large clouds of mist are formed, called laze, which contain hydrochloric acid and other airborne contaminants harmful to human health. Although the volcano dominates total emissions, local anthropogenic sources like power generating stations and automobiles can also affect air quality and visibility, releasing nitrogen oxides, particulates, and other pollutants as well as sulfur dioxide.

SO2 Advisory System at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

[Excerpt from NPS 2000 (pdf, 3.0 MB)]

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is unique in the NPS because it periodically has extremely high concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2) far higher than any other national park or even most urban areas. Sulfur dioxide is a poisonous gas that irritates the skin and mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. The SO2 gas is emitted by the Kilauea Volcano, which has produced a steady flow of lava and gas since 1986. During the winter months when tradewinds are absent, high concentrations of SO2 often occur at Kilauea's summit, impacting the popular Kilauea Visitor Center and Jaggar Museum. To help protect the health and safety of park visitors and employees, in 2000 a SO2 monitoring station was installed in the highly visited summit area of the park, and a notification and response plan was developed. The project was a cooperative venture among the NPS Air Resources Division, the NPS Pacific West Region Air Quality Coordinator, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, and the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The advisory system allows the NPS to be proactive in efforts to protect visitor and employee health and safety during periods of volcanic air pollution.

 

Air quality monitoring information and data access:

Air Pollutant/Impact

Monitoring Program

Sites and Data Access

Nitrogen & Sulfur NPS Air Quality Inventory Air quality data are not collected at Hawai'i Volcanoes NP and limited monitoring in the region limits the ability to estimate pollutant concentrations.
Ozone NPS Air Quality Inventory
Visibility IMPROVE

Abbreviations in the above table:


    IMPROVE: Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments
    NPS: National Park Service
    PM2.5: Fine Particulate Matter
    SO2: Sulfur dioxide
    VIEWS: Visibility Information Exchange Web System

For more information regarding monitoring and data assessments conducted by the National Park Service, link to the NPS Air Quality Monitoring Program or to the NPS Air Quality Monitoring History Database for a history of active and inactive monitoring sites at Hawai'i Volcanoes NP.

Key air quality related references from Hawai'i Volcanoes NP, Hawai'i

Brooks, M. L. 2003. Effects of increased soil nitrogen on the dominance of alien annual plants in the Mojave Desert. Journal of Applied Ecology. 40:344–353.

[IMPROVE] Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments. 2013. Improve Summary Data. Available at http://vista.cira.colostate.edu/improve/Data/IMPROVE/summary_data.htm.

Kohut, B. 2004. Assessing the Risk of Foliar Injury from Ozone on Vegetation in Parks in the Pacific Island Network. Available at http://nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/03Risk/pacnO3RiskOct04.pdf (pdf, 87.8 KB).

[NPS] National Park Service. 2001. Sulfur dioxide advisory system installed at Hawaii Volcanoes. In J. Selleck, M. Rees, and E. Rockwell (Eds.). Natural Resource Year in Review – 2000. Denver, CO. p. 15. Available at https://www.nature.nps.gov/publications/assets/docs/yir2000.pdf (pdf, 3.0 MB).

Orr, T. R., C. Heliker, M. R. Patrick. 2013. The Ongoing Pu‘u ‘ Ö ö Eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai‘i—30 Years of Eruptive Activity. U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2012–3127. Available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2012/3127/

Schwinning, S., B. I. Starr, N. J. Wojcik, M. E. Miller, J. E. Ehleringer, R. L. Sanford. 2005. Effects of nitrogen deposition on an arid grassland in the Colorado plateau cold desert. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 58: 565–574.

Sullivan, T. J., T. C. McDonnell, G. T. McPherson, S. D. Mackey, and D. Moore. 2011a. Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to nutrient enrichment effects from atmospheric nitrogen deposition: main report. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/313. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at www.nature.nps.gov/air/permits/aris/networks/n-sensitivity.cfm.

Sullivan, T. J., T. C. McDonnell, G. T. McPherson, S. D. Mackey, and D. Moore. 2011b. Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to nutrient enrichment effects from atmospheric nitrogen deposition: Pacific Island Network (NCPN). Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/323. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at https://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/n-sensitivity/pacn_n_sensitivity_2011-02.pdf (pdf, 4.4 MB).

Sullivan, T. J., McPherson, G. T., McDonnell, T. C., Mackey, S. D., Moore, D. 2011c. Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to acidification effects from atmospheric sulfur and nitrogen deposition: main report. Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/349. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at http://nature.nps.gov/air/permits/aris/networks/acidification-eval.cfm.

Sullivan, T. J., McPherson, G. T., McDonnell, T. C., Mackey, S. D., Moore, D. 2011d. Evaluation of the sensitivity of inventory and monitoring national parks to acidification effects from atmospheric sulfur and nitrogen deposition: Pacific Island Network (NCPN). Natural Resource Report NPS/NRPC/ARD/NRR—2011/370. National Park Service, Denver, Colorado. Available at https://www.nature.nps.gov/air/Pubs/pdf/acidification/pacn_acidification-eval_2011-05.pdf (pdf, 1.8 MB).


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Pollutants including nitrogen, sulfur, ozone, and fine particles affect resources such as scenic vistas and visitor health. Find out how on our Hawai’i Volcanoes NP Air Pollution Impacts web page.

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