Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Quake Swarm At Katla And Whispers Of Impending eruption [UPDATED 3-5-2012]

Katla volcano has had over 16 quakes in the caldera area in the last 36 hours. 11 of these were in the last 12 hours as of this writing, with most a bit under mag 1.0, but some almost to a 1.9 magnitude. The largest eent was a 2.1 mag quake slightly outside the caldera. Harmonic tremor is also being detected at the volcano, again raising the specter of a Katla eruption. Whether or not it's going to be a small event like the 2011 minor eruption remains to be seen, but one thing is becoming abundantly clear. Katla is waking up, and it will erupt soon.

My guess based on constant observation of this volcano and reading Icelandic blogs and media reports is that Katla will likely have an eruption either this year, or sometime next year. As there are no instruments that can tell us the location of the magma in the chamber, or how much is being injected, it is very hard to tell, if not impossible to predict what will happen. If history is any guide, we might be expecting a very large eruption sometime soon. But then again, looking to history for apparent patterns in volcanic activity is something we humans do, even if it truly means nothing in reality.

A large Katla eruption has been expected after its neighbor blew up in 2010. Eyjafjallajökull has been characterized by some volcanologists as being slightly connected to Katla's magma chamber via a lateral dike-like structure. Historically speaking, each recorded eruption at Eyjafjallajökull was followed usually within months by a Katla eruption. But this sort of proves how historical "patterns" may not always be so. It has since been almost two whole years since Eyjafjallajökull erupted, and despite the tiny eruption from Katla (which may have been a result of left over magma from Eyjafjallajökull's eruption via the lateral dike I mentioned), Katla has remained restless, but non-eruptive as some people predicted.

Time will tell, but it's probably a good time to start really keeping a close eye on what's going on at Katla, especially for Iceland and Europe. Due to its location next to Eyjafjallajökull, it is quite possible that a large ash producing event from Katla would have very similar effects on the Eurozone that Eyjafjallajökull did when it exploded. This could easily cause more economic hardship to Europe, at probably the worst time to do so if it were to erupt rather soon.

I'm going to be keeping my eyes peeled on Katla this week, and if more activity occurs, you'll hear about it here!


Another swarm of quakes were recorded today at the Katla caldera. 4-5 quakes ranging from less than 1.0 to around 1.5 occurred within an hour period. Again, this is most likely more magma dike intrusion into the caldera system.


  1. I heard March 9th might be when it makes big bang. Does people think this might be the big one?

  2. It is impossible to say an exact date, and anyone who does so is full of it :) as it stands right now, we are only able to tell in some cases within hours or days. There has been no elevation of Katla's alert level and this volcano is well monitored. The quakes are several kilometers under the crust, so until they become extremely shallower, there is no cause for alarm. It is highly unlikely that Katla will erupt in March.

  3. Iceland having quakes today, 3-1-2012. Thanks.

  4. This is probably another minor intrusion of magma into the crust. The depths of these quakes are consistent with the rest. So far, no real change in conditions at the volcano, other than it is restless.

    1. Matt, check this site, good stuff. Thanks


  5. Yep, I regularly check Jon's stuff. Usually a good source of local info, however I have a hard time reading his English on occasion :P

  6. radar.tudelft.nl/~ahooper/Hooper_et_al_VOLUME_2009.pdf

    it would be interesting to get an update on this work.

    the pattern at katla indicates icequake activity.

    as long as the water flows out via the jokulop floodway there should not be a phreatic eruption. but definitely the shallow magma pool is in the process of a continous or having erupted last year a dying eruption.

    however what is interesting is the bulges south of the main crater and just on the southwest of the crater in late nineties.

    maybe the radar company in nl could shed some light on the latest events.

  7. hows your Icelandic Matt?

  8. It's nonexistent. However I use translation engines when needed. I'm pretty sure this is you Jon. Sorry if I offended you, but I did offer to help your blog with the English translation and you were less than interested. I love to read your blog, and the info is great! I would like to help correct the English so that it is flawless, and your credibility is bolstered. If I remember correctly, you said there are no problems with your English, but as a native English speaker, and a major in the subject... well, trust me friend, you do need some corrections here and there. Again, I never meant to offend you, but I do wish to help you. Your blog would be so much better if it was readable by English and American people! Your grasp of the language is amazing, but you do lack the subtlety of the craft! It makes it very hard to understand sometimes. I do love your reporting however, and your instrumentation/monitoring systems are by far better than mine!

  9. Honestly, we could do so much better for the world, volcanology, and blogging if we collaborated.


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