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MIT students studying Big Island volcano vog

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KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — Students from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been on the Big Island studying a vog plume from near the Kilauea crater.

The students spent about a week on the Big Island as part of a class studying vog, also called volcanic smog, aimed at providing undergraduates with hands-on experience in environmental fieldwork, according to West Hawaii Today (http://is.gd/tAARSl).

The students gave a presentation Thursday in which they said that an older vog plume has less sulfur dioxide in it, which student Jessica Parker said means less of an impact on plants and property. Parker said as sulfur dioxide has time to spread and move across land, it reacts with water vapor and other elements to create sulfate, which is less corrosive.

"It doesn't corrode as quickly as battery acid," she said, of the difference between sulfur dioxide and sulfate, which she compared to the acidity of drip coffee. "When ammonia neutralizes it, (the sulfur dioxide) becomes less acidic and acid is what contributes to corrosion of fences."

The students collected data over the past week. They used both ground-based instruments and sensors onboard an unmanned aerial vehicle to capture the data.

Even though sulfur dioxide is neutralized as the plume moves, the amount of particulate in the air is still a health concern, Parker said. Vog is associated with coughing, asthma, and respiratory illness, among other issues.

Several dozen people attended the presentation by more than a dozen MIT undergraduate students held at the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park in North Kona.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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