Monday, November 1, 2010

Rainforest at the Volcano - How is the air?

Here we are, on top of the volcano.  You get in your car and drive for a few minutes, and there is its gaping maw, a great plume of sulfur dioxide rising into the sky and floating off towards Kona or perhaps out to sea.  You might expect the air to be heavily laden with fumes, breathing to be difficult, and your stay at this amazing place to be short.

The reality we have experienced, having lived here now for about a year and a half of this eruption, is that on the vast majority of days, there is no odor from the volcano once you are as far away as the visitor's center in the park.  Our gate, as you see it on the left, is about three or four times farther from the eruption than the visitor center.  The park measures air quality, and it is measured all around the volcano continuously.  Here is a link to see those measurements:

Today as I write this, there are 0 emissions of sulfur dioxide evident here.  That is the way it is most days, and in fact the way it has been all year, in my memory.  The trade winds blow the fumes and plume away from here.  The air has the fragrance of whatever is in bloom.  Ginger in summer and early fall, orchids year round.  Datura as dusk arrives.  Certain orchids have such powerful perfumes that you can smell them from yards away.  Indoors, they perfume the house with their (usually) subtle tropical ambience.  It is not like designer scents that hover like a formidable cloud around a person, but scents like a smile that beckon you to come and begin a conversation.

One of the most delightful parts of living in these islands is the fragrance of the air.  Even here at the volcano, in our forest.