EGU2020-405, updated on 12 Jun 2020
EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Spatial and temporal variations in ambient SO2 and PM2.5 levels influenced by Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai'i, 2007 - 2018

Rachel Whitty1, Evgenia Ilyinskaya1, Emily Mason2, Penny Wieser2, Emma Liu3, Anja Schmidt4,5, Tjarda Roberts6, Melissa Pfeffer7, Barbara Brooks8, Tamsin Mather9, Marie Edmonds2, Tamar Elias10, David Schneider11, Clive Oppenheimer5, Adrian Dybwad12, Patricia Nadeau10, and Christoph Kern13
Rachel Whitty et al.
  • 1The University of Leeds, Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics, School of Earth and Environment, Leeds, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Earth Sciences & Geography, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 3Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, University College London, United Kingdom
  • 4Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Physics and Chemistry, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 5Department of Geography, Faculty of Earth Sciences and Geography, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 6Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France
  • 7Icelandic Meteorological Office, Iceland
  • 8National Centre for Atmospheric Science, United Kingdom
  • 9Department of Earth Sciences, Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 10Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (USGS), United States
  • 11Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), United States
  • 12PurpleAir LLC, 110 West 13775 South STE 4 Draper, UT, United States
  • 13Cascades Volcano Observatory, Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (USGS), United States

The 2018 eruption of Kīlauea volcano, Hawai'i, resulted in enormous gas emissions from the Lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) of the volcano. This led to important changes to air quality in downwind communities. We analyse and present measurements of atmospheric sulfur dioxide (SO2) and aerosol particulate matter < 2.5 µm (PM2.5) collected by the Hawai'i Department of Health (HDOH) and National Park Service (NPS) operational air quality monitoring networks between 2007 and 2018; and a community-operated network of low-cost PM2.5 sensors on the Island of Hawai'i. During this period, the two largest observed increases in Kīlauea's volcanic emissions were: the summit eruption that began in 2008 (Kīlauea emissions averaged 5 – 6 kt/day SO2 over the course of the eruption) and the LERZ eruption in May-August 2018 when SO2 emission rates likely reached 200 kt/day in June. Here we focus on characterising the airborne pollutants arising from the 2018 LERZ eruption and the spatial distribution and severity of air pollution events across the Island of Hawai'i. The LERZ eruption caused the most frequent and severe exceedances of Environmental Protection Agency 24-hour-mean PM2.5 air quality thresholds in Hawai'i since 2010. In Kona, for example, there were eight exceedances during the 2018 LERZ eruption, where there had been no exceedances in the previous eight years as measured by the HDOH and NPS networks. SO2 air pollution during the LERZ eruption was most severe in communities in the south and west of the island, with maximum 24-hour-mean mass concentrations of 728 µg/m3 recorded in Ocean View (100 km west of the LERZ emission source) in May 2018. Data from the low-cost sensor network correlated well with data from the HDOH PM2.5 instruments (Kona station, R2 = 0.89), demonstrating that these low-cost sensors provide a viable means to rapidly augment reference-grade instrument networks during crises.

How to cite: Whitty, R., Ilyinskaya, E., Mason, E., Wieser, P., Liu, E., Schmidt, A., Roberts, T., Pfeffer, M., Brooks, B., Mather, T., Edmonds, M., Elias, T., Schneider, D., Oppenheimer, C., Dybwad, A., Nadeau, P., and Kern, C.: Spatial and temporal variations in ambient SO2 and PM2.5 levels influenced by Kīlauea Volcano, Hawai'i, 2007 - 2018, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-405,, 2019

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