Gas emissions drop to lowest level in decade at Kilauea

HILO (AP) — Gas emissions from Kilauea volcano have reached their lowest level in more than a decade as the Big Island sees a lull in volcanic activity.

Sulfur dioxide emission rates have dropped to less than 1,000 tons per day between Kilauea’s summit and its lower east rift zone, marking the lowest rates since 2007, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported last week.

The emissions drop is correlated with the decreasing lava levels at sites around the volcano, including the Halemaumau crater and eastern rift, said Patricia Nadeau, a research geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Very little lava has been observed for weeks at Fissure 8 in lower Puna, and gas emissions in the eastern rift zone have dropped to less than 20 tons per day.

Activity at the volcano is impossible to predict, so emissions rates could change at any time, Nadeau said.

In areas like Pahala and Ocean View, there has been a noticeable change in air quality, said Louis Daniele, manager of the Kau Coffee Mill.

“There’s such a marked difference,” Daniele said. “There are blue skies again, you can see the horizon line, it doesn’t smell like rotten eggs all the time — people’s eyes aren’t burning, people’s throats aren’t burning.”

The improved air quality appears to have improved residents’ morale, and brought in more visitors to area, Daniele said.

“I’m not checking air-quality warnings all the time now,” Daniele said. “Before, I was checking up on the air quality every hour; seeing if it was safe.”