Monday, January 30, 2012

Possible Dike Intrusion at Katla Volcano, Iceland


Seismographs are recording a large amount of small quakes beneath the Mýrdalsjökull glacier in Katla's caldera in the past 48 hours. Over 20 small quakes have so far hit a concentrated area, which usually indicates slow dike intrusion under the volcano. Katla, next door to the now infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano which caused massive transportation disruptions in April of 2010, is far larger and has been known to erupt with much more fury than Eyjafjallajökull.

Katla may have had a minor eruption earlier in 2011, when a glacial outburst flood (jökullhlaup) came suddenly and destroyed a small bridge with debris in a lahar-like surge. This was considered by some to be a small eruption, possibly preceding future stronger activity.

While many Icelandic volcanologists have expected Katla to blow shortly after Eyjafjallajökull, it has yet to occur. This new intrusion could be the start of more activity, but it will likely be small. It could be Katla might just have a few small eruptions rather than a large one, but it's anyone's guess at this time.

                                           
Image from Icelandic Meteorological Office website showing current quake swarm at Katla.
Katla has not had a major eruption in quite some time. Some of Katla's previous eruptions have been record setting events that produced some of the largest amounts of tephra and basaltic lava flows that Iceland has ever witnessed (except for of course the famed eruption of the Laki fissure system, credited for worldwide famine and the straw that broke the camel's back for France preceding the revolution). While Katla's future is highly uncertain, the only certain thing that can be said about it is that it is active, it will erupt again, and probably soon.

Other than this, speculation is always useless with Icelandic volcanoes. The media like BBC and DailyMail will no doubt hype this up tot he point people are hysterical... while those of us who know better will sit back and wait for the show with the knowledge that this is probably going to be a non event.

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