Vog forecast website in limbo after funding ends

Program is staying alive because of a volunteer effort

Published  8:45 PM HST Apr 10, 2013
vog
HONOLULU -

An online tool that predicts where and when vog may move into your neighborhood is in jeopardy because of a lack of funding.

When a vent opened at Kilauea Volcano's Halemaumau Crater in 2008, Steven Businger, a University of Hawaii meteorology professor, said he felt a need to start a public vog forecast model.  A stimulus package sent money his way through the U.S. Geological Survey.

His website went public in February 2011.  But seven months later, funding for the project came to a halt.

"We're doing (it) without any money.  There's automation in the process, which makes it doable on a very, very minimal budget," Businger said.

For the past year and a half, the program's been kept alive by a volunteer effort.

"A little bit of help from people who are employed in other ways to keep the vog modeling program going," said Businger.

That help is estimated to be about $100,000 a year.

Businger said there has been interest from NOAA and the USGS but, "Times are tight and and they would have to scale back one of their programs in order to bring on a new program."

It is a program that is used by many.

Hawaii County Civil Defense director Darryl Oliveira said, "It will definitely be a loss for us because we do look at the tool as one of the many tools we have to assess and identify hazard and risk in the community."

Businger added, "If you are susceptible to vog, if you have asthma or other breathing issues, then you can sort of tailor your activity depending on whether there's a forecast for incoming vog.   Or if you're photographer and you want to get a really nice red sunset, I mean you can use the vog model output for that as well."

Businger said the program just got support from the university to hire a graduate student for the next two years.  But without steady funding, he said the program could come to an end at any time.

Click here to go to the Vog Measurement and Prediction Project.

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