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Hawaii volcano vents not good for roasting marshmallows, USGS warns

Lave reaches the ocean from the Kilauea eruption in Hawaii.

USGS photo by M. Patrick

The United States Geological Survey is very serious about updating the public on the activity and spreading danger of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, but it’s not afraid to field some goofy questions, too. Twitter user Jay Furr got in touch with the USGS volcano crew to ask the pressing question, “Is it safe to roast marshmallows over volcanic vents?” Furr has been thinking this one through, adding the caveat, “assuming you had a long enough stick.”

Erm…we’re going to have to say no, that’s not safe. (Please don’t try!) If the vent is emitting a lot of SO2 or H2S, they would taste BAD.

And if you add sulfuric acid (in vog, for example) to sugar, you get a pretty spectacular reaction.

— USGS Volcanoes? (@USGSVolcanoes) May 29, 2018

The USGS responded, politely asking that people not try this culinary stunt due to the terrible taste and chance of a “spectacular reaction.” The hazardous gases emitted from the vents are reason enough to stay far, far away. The “vog” the USGS references in the tweet is a type of volcanic smog from “gas, tiny particles and acidic droplets created when sulfur dioxide and other gases emitted from a volcano chemically interact with sunlight and atmospheric oxygen, moisture, and dust.”

Furr was willing to accept the ban on roasting marshmallows, but wasn’t entirely dissuaded from his cooking-with-lava fantasies.

Hmm. Okay, what about roasting hot dogs?

— Jay Furr (@jayfurr) May 29, 2018

The marshmallow and hot dog discussion brings a little bit of levity to what has been a serious ongoing event.

The Kilauea volcano’s most recent eruption began on May 3 and has spread through lava fissures, destroying buildings and forcing evacuations along the way. NASA satellites and astronauts on board the International Space Station have witnessed the eruption from afar. The USGS warned this week about vigorous lava eruptions, lava fountaining and volcanic gas emissions.

The agency doesn’t know how long this current eruption will last.

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