Officials from the US Geological Survey (USGS) have warned that Hawai'i's Kīlauea volcano, which is currently erupting, may start spewing "vog" and Pele's hair.
The volcano, which was briefly deemed a code red, began erupting on June 7 and has been monitored closely since. The USGS is now warning residents that high levels of vog – volcanic smog – are forecast as the eruption continues.
"High levels of volcanic gas — primarily water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) — are the primary hazard of concern, as this hazard can have far-reaching effects down-wind," the USGS wrote in an update. "As SO2 is continuously released from the summit during the eruption, it will react in the atmosphere to create the visible haze known as vog (volcanic smog) downwind of Kīlauea."
The USGS has also warned residents to look out for the more interesting but hazardous substance known as Pele's hair. When volcanoes spew molten lava into the air and it comes back down, it can stretch and break apart into hair-thin strands of volcanic glass. These thin strands are named Pele's hair after Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, not the footballer.
When the velocity of the eruption is high, Pele's hair is more likely to be formed, and when it is lower and the strands are not stretched as much it can form Pele's tears – small drops of volcanic glass. Pele's hair is usually attached to Pele's tears initially, but breaks free and travels further through the air.
"Strong winds may waft lighter particles to greater distances," the USGS noted. "Residents and visitors should minimize exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation."
Cool as it may look, it's recommended that you do not touch Pele's hair, as it can be sharp and brittle, and can become lodged in the eyes or skin.
"Imagine inhaling tiny slivers of glass," former research geologist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Don Swanson told Live Science. "That's what the Pele's hair is. It can inflame and irritate anything that comes in contact with it."
The volcano remains closed to the public as the eruption continues.