One of Hawai'i's best-kept secrets descended upon us again recently. It's called "vog." You probably don't know much about vog if you're a tourist or a new resident, but trust me, it's real.
Vog, a portmanteau of the words "volcanic" and "smog," consists of miniscule particles of ash, sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid emanating from Kilauea Volcano, which blow over to our Emerald Isle whenever Kona winds shift toward the northwest. By the time the Big Island's vog plume visits the Neighbor Islands, the sulfur compounds have been converted almost entirely to ammonium sulfate.
The only way many of us even know vog is here is when we can't see our Neighbor Islands.
For those more sensitive, vog causes itchy eyes, throat irritation and coughing. It makes you feel like you're "coming down with something." You feel tired and gloomy.
Some of us don't even realize that vog is the cause of the malaise and fogginess, because most of us are not updated, informed and apprised of this occurrence by our local media on a regular basis.
No one seems to like to talk about vog--maybe because there is not much we can do about it even if it were reported by the media stations. But it should be treated as a topic of importance, because it is a health issue.
Instead of providing daily vog information, most of Hawai'i's media only tell us every day what we already know. "Mostly sunny today, with showers in some areas and temps getting cooler at higher elevations blah, blah, blah."
When I am the Supreme Ruler of Hawai'i, this will be my first mandate: All media will be required to provide daily, updated vog reports in every single weather forecast, such as, "Kona winds are bringing us heavy vog for the next few days--so keep your windows closed and forego outdoor exercise. Enjoy a good movie or one of our beautiful Maui restaurants this evening, instead."
If you want to research the topic yourself, go to the University of Hawi'i's Vog Measurement and Prediction Project (in progress) Website at weather.hawaii.edu/vmap, where you can find a lot of information, forecasts and a vog model of the Hawaiian Islands.
Because, if you are waiting for a media report any time soon, don't hold your breath.
Charles Laquidara has lived on Maui for over 11 years. He worked at WBCN radio in Boston for 30 years as host of a show called "The Big Mattress" and is occasionally heard on Mana'o Radio. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.