Environmental Impact of Kilauea’s Volcanic Gas
The immediate effects of a volcanic eruption is its destruction of plant and wildlife. Lava flows, pyroclastic flows, and the release of toxic sulfur dioxide can contribute to the famine and eventual loss of livestock and other animals.
While scientists are still collecting data on how wildlife has been affected on the Hawaiian island where the Kilauea volcano sits, looking at the damage from previous volcanic eruptions offers a grim example of what the final results of their investigation will be. In the case of Mount St. Helen’s eruption in 1980, the Washington Department of Game estimated that 11,000 hares, 6,000 deer, 5,200 elk, 1,400 coyotes, 300 bobcats, 200 black bears, and 15 mountain lions died from the rock-spewing pyroclastic flows from the eruption. Considering Kilauea sits on a relatively small island, it’s eruption has the possibility to redirect an entire ecosystem.
Obviously, the volcanic eruption’s long-term effects on climate change will be unavoidable. Kilauea’s eruption is already spewing hydrogen chloride, sulfur dioxide, ash, and other materials high into the stratosphere. Not only can the carbon dioxide that Kilauea is releasing augment the effects of climate change, but the eruption may also cause chemical reactions that produce chlorine monoxide, a substance that destroys the Earth’s ozone layer.
After Kilauea’s eruption, lava continued to flow from multiple points along the northeast end of the active fissures. Residents have already begun dealing with its damaging effects, and due to the elevated sulfur dioxide levels, the County of Hawaii has closed schools in the area and warned that wind may carry the latest ash plume as far north as Kau, Kea’au, and Hilo.
Despite several weeks of continuous destruction, Kilauea’s explosive eruption suggests that it doesn’t plan to slow down. Local and federal sources say they will continue to monitor the situation for its latest effects on the local environment.