Hazy skies in Cebu due to Mt. Kanlaon emission

SunStar Cebu Province map
SunStar Cebu Province map

CEBU remains affected by the sulfur dioxide emitted from Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Island, according to the air parcel trajectory data from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) Mactan station.

Air parcel trajectory refers to the path that a parcel of air follows as it moves through the atmosphere. Tracking air parcel trajectories is crucial for understanding weather patterns, predicting pollutant dispersion and studying atmospheric dynamics. For one, it helps in monitoring the air quality, tracking the spread of pollutants or volcanic ash to assess air quality and implementing safety measures.

During an interview on SunStar Cebu’s program “Beyond the Headlines” on Friday, June 7, 2024, Pagasa Mactan’s chief engineer Alfredo Quiblat said that the sulfur dioxide emission from Mt. Kanlaon has led to a 10 percent reduction in visibility, commonly experienced as haze by the public.

Quiblat said that the only suspected cause of this phenomenon is the sulfur dioxide emitted from Mt. Kanlaon’s eruption, found in the haze.

However, confirmation is pending until the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) 7 conducts air sampling to monitor air quality, as they possess the appropriate instruments. At present, DENR-EMB 7 is still waiting for the official statement from the central office.

Mt. Kanlaon had a phreatic eruption on Monday, June 3 and emitted plumes that rose to 5,000 meters. According to Phivolcs, the eruption lasted for six minutes and was followed by two volcanic quakes.

Moreover, Quiblat said that the haze isn’t significantly affecting Cebu’s airport operations, as the haze experienced here is lighter compared to the heavier haze in Negros Occidental.

According to Quiblat, during a haze, vision feels obscured before the clouds become visible, unlike on a cloudy day when the presence of clouds is clear. He further explained that when looking at a mountain during a haze, your vision becomes blurry. In contrast, during a rain cloud, it appears dark, and you can see the falling rain.

Health concerns

Meanwhile, doctor Eugenia Mercedes Cañal, Regional Epidemiologist of the Department of Health (DOH) 7, said during a press conference on Friday, June 7, 2024, that concerns have been raised about the elevated levels of sulfur dioxide gas in the atmosphere following the recent eruption of Mt. Kanlaon.

While sulfur gases naturally exist in trace amounts in the atmosphere, industrial activities such as burning fuels and coal mining can significantly increase these levels.

The emission of sulfur dioxide gas poses a serious health risk, particularly to respiratory health, with potential impacts on lung membranes and exacerbation of conditions such as pneumonia and asthma, particularly among children and the elderly.

Although there have been no reports of individuals experiencing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or respiratory distress requiring evacuation, authorities are closely monitoring the situation through surveillance offices.

“So far diri sa Cebu wala pay reported nga naay nasakit tungod sa sulfur,” said Cañal.

(So far here in Cebu, there have been no reports of anyone getting sick due to sulfur.)

The DOH advised the public to wear face masks for protection, suggesting the use of N95 or N100 masks for the best protection, although surgical masks are also acceptable. / JPS, CAV

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