Revealing the invisible: Kym in Hawaii, USA

Consistent volcanic activity from Mt. Kīlauea has frequently hung a black cloud over the idyllic Hawaii Island, Hawaii. While residents have become accustomed to the frequent spells of air pollution, there was little qualification of the smog and understanding of the associated health implications - that is, until residents took matters into their own hands, measuring air quality with locally deployed AirVisual Pro monitors.

April 19, 2019 Kelsey D.
Revealing the invisible: Kym in Hawaii, USA

In less than a year, the AirVisual Pro has been deployed as an outdoor air monitoring station in more than 40 countries, for some of which AirVisual Pros are the only data source. Citizens have chosen to take their local air quality into their own hands around the globe - discover where and why!


When we think of air pollution emissions, we often imagine smoke plumes from factory stacks and sputtering car exhausts. For Kym and the nearly 200,000 residents of the big island, Hawaii these emission sources are few and far between. Pollution spells plaguing the island are from an entirely different source - naturally occurring volcanic activity.

Volcanic smog, referred to by locals as “vog,” has been a near constant condition of life on the Hawaiian island for more than two decades. In 1983, volcano Kīlauea began erupting more frequently, and only since 2018 has volcanic activity finally slowed.

Visual effect of 'vog'
The visual effect of “vog” on Kailua Kona Town, Hawaii, Hawaii

During the years of activity, as new fissures and openings came to appear on the changing surface of the volcano, air pollution on the island would worsen. It was during one of these events of heightened air pollution that local resident Kym, an asthmatic and outdoor enthusiast, decided to take matters into her own hands to start better quantifying pollution levels and informing residents, so that they can better protect their own health.

Previously, the nearest governmental air quality monitor was roughly 12 miles away, and situated at a point of higher elevation on a mountainside. Locals feared that due to its positioning, the station under reported the severity of the problem. Without proper data to inform of the situation, Kym saw many of her friends move away from the island in fear.

image of Kym's station
Kym’s AirVisual Pro (left) displays sustained “unhealthy” readings in Kailua Kona Town. App screenshot (right) compares readings from stations across the island, with stations closer to the volcano showing higher readings than those nearer to the ocean.

While locals came together at town hall meetings with greater urgency, demanding the county add more monitoring stations, Kym’s newly launched station began gaining popularity. The local radio station started reporting the readings on a daily basis, helping to better guide locals’ outdoor activities.

Since Kilauea volcano stopped fuming as of August 2018, residents of Kailua-Kona are breathing easy again and hoping the clear air lasts. The network Kym helped to establish, meanwhile, remains ready for the day when the active fault opens the Earth’s surface to magma once again.

map of clean air on Kailua-Kona
Kym’s AirVisual Pro (left) displays sustained “unhealthy” readings in Kailua Kona Town. App screenshot (right) compares readings from stations across the island, with stations closer to the volcano showing higher readings than those nearer to the ocean.

Kelsey D.

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