The arrival to the Peninsula and Balearic Islands of clouds sulfur dioxide expelled by the Cumbre Vieja volcano from the island of The Palm, provided by the Atmospheric Monitoring Service Copernicus between Thursday and Friday, will not cause acid rain, as reported by the spokesman for the State Meteorological Agency (Aemet), Rubén del Campo. This phenomenon it could occur in areas of the neighboring islands in the Canary Islands, although it is considered “unlikely“and of little danger.
“The latest observations detect an eruptive column that reaches approximately 3,000 meters in altitude. The winds in the area of the eruption are altered by the hot spot, and this causes a permanent current that is directed from the immediate vicinity to the area of the eruption. Above this area, and up to about 2,000 meters of altitude, the winds are from the northeast, while at 3,000 and 5,000 meters the direction will be southwest, turning northwest at the end of Friday, “explains the spokesman.
This implies that the volcano’s emissions will be directed between Thursday and Friday towards the south, reaching on the surface “areas of Hierro, Gomera and Tenerife“, although the highest concentrations of sulfur dioxide will continue to occur on La Palma, at” higher altitudes than the population is “. It will be from 1,500 meters when the emissions can be dispersed to the rest of the Canary archipelago,” in concentrations much lower “than those of the eruptive focus.
According to the Canary Islands Air Quality Control Network, Del Campo insists, the volcanic eruption has not caused environmental pollution in the air we breathe so far. According to the dispersion model used by Aemet, MOCAGE, no “significant arrival” of substances from the volcano is observed beyond the archipelago. “The occurrence of acid rain in the Peninsula and the Balearic Islands is ruled out“.
In the Canary Islands, rainfall can occur in the north and east of the more mountainous islands, “rains in any case weak and coming from low clouds”. And although it is “complex” to introduce the concentration of sulfur dioxide in the forecast, the acid rain episode is considered “very unlikely”. And if it occurs, Del Campo insists that it would be a “one-off episode”, when the harmful aspects of acid rain tend to appear “in the long term, in prolonged situations of months or years”.
What is acid rain
The levels of gases emitted, therefore, only acquire a dangerous dimension around the mouths of the volcano. Como published THE SPANISH, sulfur dioxide can produce from irritation and inflammation of the respiratory system, lung diseases and insufficiencies, the alteration of protein metabolism, headaches and even anxiety, according to the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.
The meteorologist at eltiempo.es Mar Gómez explains that volcanoes, in addition to harmless water vapor, can emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen halides. “CO2 can become a deadly gas“Alert, because cold carbon dioxide is heavier than air, it can flow towards low areas and reach much higher concentrations in certain very stable atmospheric conditions. Therefore, it advises to avoid small depressions and lower areas, because they could become “real death traps”.
The sulfur dioxide is colorless but its pungent odor irritates the skin, tissues and mucous membranes of the eyes, nose and throat. At that level in the Earth’s atmosphere, it becomes sulfate aerosols that reflect sunlight and play an important role in ozone destruction.
On the other hand, time.es adds that hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable gas with a strong, unpleasant odor. At mixing ratios greater than about 0.01%, H2S becomes odorless and highly toxic, causing irritation of the upper respiratory tract and, during prolonged exposure, pulmonary edema. Exposure to 500 parts per million of this gas can cause a person to lose consciousness in 5 minutes and die in an hour or less.
Also, when magma rises near the surface, volcanoes can emit halogens of fluorine, chlorine and bromine, which dissolve rapidly in water droplets inside volcanic columns or in the atmosphere, where they can potentially cause acid rain.
Acid rain is precipitation with a more acidic pH than normal, based on the pH of pure water (7) as a reference: if the pH is lower than 7 it will be acidic and, if it is higher, basic. Rain normally has a pH in the range 5.0-5.5 (slightly acidic). Acid rain may be considered if the pH is less than 5, a factor favored by the concentration of sulfur dioxide (SO2) in the air.
Thus, according to the prediction of the weather.es, it is likely that in the precipitations that occur in the next few hours, the rain is slightly more acidic than usual with a somewhat lower pH, but he does not expect that the increased acidity of the rain in the coming days could pose any risk to our health and neither does the atmospheric concentration of SO2 at levels near the surface.
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