Yesterday (07 September 2016) another earthquake struck the large sub-glacial volcano Katla.
According to Icelandic Met Office (IMO), the magnitude 3.5 quake hit at 08.58, and was followed by a few smaller aftershocks.
Katla is located under the ice cape of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, in South Iceland, and is one of Iceland’s most notorious volcanoes.
Earthquake activity in the Katla volcano started picking up pace earlier this summer. Last week (28-29 August 2016) two considerable earthquakes struck in the northern rim of Katla’s caldera. These magnitude 4.5 quakes were the biggest earthquakes in the volcano since 1977. (see blog article: Earthquake Swarm in Katla Volcano)
The last eruption in Katla was in 1918, and as the volcano has historically erupted at least once every century.
Geoscientists have been expecting it to take off for a while.
This is of course a reason for serious concern, as Katla has the potential of generating an eruption that is at least 10 times larger than the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. That event was felt around the Northern Hemisphere, when the dispersal of ash cloud shut down all aviation across the North Atlantic for one week, 313 airports were closed and 104,000 international flights between Europe and North America were cancelled.
But what is going on now?
Is Katla about to explode or not?
IMO’s experts have somewhat clarified the situation. The short answer is not necessarily, as several similar periods of unrest have occurred at Katla over the last 50 years, without resulting in an explosive eruption. But as history clearly shows us Katla is overdue, so we should be prepared. Here you can read IMO’s assessment.
IMO has several monitoring networks around Mýrdalsjökull glacier (Katla) via twenty-four-hour monitoring.
Every effort will be made to issue a timely warning in the event of a volcanic eruption.
The distance between Katla and Reykjavík is around 180 km (112 Miles).
However Vík í Mýrdal (population 318), a very popular travel destination on the south coast, is located at the bottom of the volcano. An eruption of Katla could melt enough ice to trigger an enormous flash flood, potentially large enough to obliterate the entire town. The town’s church, located high on a hill, is believed to be the only building that would potentially survive such a flood. Thus, the people of Vík practice periodic drills and are trained to rush to the church at the first sign of an eruption.
ICE2017 Team will be keeping a close eye on developments of these recent activity, as it may influence our planning for next years adventure – maybe we will have the opportunity to experience a live volcano eruption.