Having monitored the Katla Volcano since early 2010, a sudden grouping of earthquakes at and around the volcano during the past 24 hours is new cause for concern.
Approximately 50 earthquakes have suddenly popped around the region.
More alarming however are the 6 that have rumbled beneath and within the Katla volcano caldera itself, the most caldera quakes in one day since this author began monitoring it in May, 2010.
If that wasn’t enough cause for concern, earthquakes are also rumbling around the volcano that erupted last April (Eyjafjallajokull), the one that shut down European air traffic for several weeks.
Just a few weeks ago, Eyjafjallajokull began showing signs of activity once again, the activity being new earthquakes. Having been mostly quiet since the eruption ended early last year, Eyjafjallajokull may now be indicating that it has more in store for us.
Of greater overall concern is the Katla volcano. Reason being, it has the potential to explode with up to ten times the force of that of its neighbor, Eyjafjallajokull. The last Katla eruption was during 1918, 92 years ago, and is way overdue for its next wake-up call.
The average time between explosive Katla eruptions has been 52 years since it erupted in 30 AD. Katla has erupted 38 times since.
base image credit: Icelandic Met Office
Since May, 2010, approximately 132 earthquakes have rumbled within the Katla caldera. The concentration of these earthquakes appear to be located in three general areas, as shown in the following image.
The largest concentration looks to be near the eruption of 1755, with nearly an equal number located near the eruption of 1918. There is also a build up of quakes along the northeast rim.
base image credit: Icelandic Met Office
We know that it is only a matter of time before this volcano blows its top. The explosion could be the biggest we’ve seen in a long time around this planet.
Katla has exploded with a VEI 5 in the past (that’s pretty big).
Update, one comment to this post suggests that new detection equipment has been installed around the Katla – Eyja region. If accurate, this could explain some of what we may be seeing. My own experience tells me that newly installed systems (any industry) take a while to tweak out issues. We’ll see how this plays out.
Update, Apparently just days ago, new, more sensitive seismometers (and more of them) have been brought online having been installed around Katla and Eyja, and financed by the British Geological Survey. The reason for the British funding for the new seismometers and software is to give better clues and more advanced warning before Katla does eventually go ka-boom. Even they know its history.
Update, 11-Jan-2011, Having seen some of the recent GPS data, it looks to my eyes that GPS sensor ‘AUST’, operated by the University of Iceland, and located on the northeast rim of Katla, indicates that this particular region has been inflating – or bulging. This is also one general area where groupings of earthquakes have occurred. Other nearby GPS sensors do not appear to show inflation however.
———————–>base map credit: Iceland Meteorological office
The Eyjafjallajokull volcano region in Iceland has suddenly become active with a number of earthquakes after having been mostly quiet since its eruption subsided early this year. Eyjafjallajokull erupted during 14-April and went on to cause weeks of European air traffic problems as a result of ash spewing into the atmosphere – which can clog jet engines.
While watching its neighbor, Katla, which historically has erupted 6 months to 1.5 years afterward, it was surprising to see new earthquake activity at Eyjafjallajokull. During the past six months there has consistently been and earthquake here and there at the Eyjafjallajokull location, but to see a dozen or so, within a day or two, is new behavior.
Volcanoes are fickle, and this activity could abruptly end, but noteworthy nonetheless.
Additionally, there have been rumors that GPS measurements in the region have indicated inflation (surface areas that are lifting higher) which if true, will certainly raise an eyebrow… Again, this is not confirmed at this moment. Just putting it out there.
Could Eyjafjallajokull erupt again, so soon after the last one? Time will tell.
Chances are, European holiday travel will go on without issue, except for the snow and cold…
(Note that this is observation reporting only – not a vulcanologist :=)
Update, 2-Jan-2011, Still observing earthquake activity (no swarming though) at Eyjafjallajokull. Also, the daily activity at Katla has increased compared to what had been occurring on average during the past few months. Now getting 5+ EQ’s per day, more-or-less. Still – not indicative of an immediate problem, but there is something going on beneath the Myrdalsjokull glacier.
Note that the latest Katla information (and Eyjafjallajokull if necessary), is always posted on the sidebar of this website. We’re keeping an eye on it
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Indications of magma movement is evident underneath Europe’s largest ice cap glacier, Vatnajokull, located in southeast Iceland. Seven volcanoes lie underneath Iceland’s largest glacier, and most of them are active. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge plate boundary passes right underneath the west side of the glacier separating the North American plate and Eurasian plate, where recent very active earthquake activity has taken place near the Bardarbunga volcano and is apparently ongoing at this moment, albeit slightly subdued from yesterday’s cluster.
More than 30 earthquakes have quickly occurred during Sunday, 27-Sep-2010, many within minutes of each other and most of them at depths ranging from 5 km to 10 km. Magnitudes of most all the earthquakes have ranged from 1.5 to 3.7. Tremor measurements from nearby stations clearly recorded the activity and is viewable at the Icelandic Met office website.
The very active region is located very near the western edge of Vatnajokull glacier, about 15 km southwest from the Bardarbunga volcano and 25 km northwest from the Grimsvotn volcano. Interestingly, this particular earthquake pattern has formed into a broad line. This could be indicative of a magma channel undergoing bulging stress.
Iceland remains the world’s hot spot for volcanic activity. With the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajokull during April-2010 having caused great disruption in European air travel and European economies, all eyes remain on the Island to the north as we watch for signs of a dangerous Katla eruption (which has always historically followed Eyjafjallajokull soon thereafter), and now this new suspicious activity beneath the mammoth Vatnajokull glacier.
The Earth is restless.
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This amazing up-close HD quality eruption video of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, is an exploding eruption of rock, magma, and ash thrown high into the sky, and displays the absolute stunning power of forces within the earth beneath our feet!
My take away after watching this, is that we are such tiny little creatures in comparison. To view and hear the power of this volcanic eruption in progress is awe inspiring. I can’t even imagine what the neighboring Katla eruption will be like (about 10 x stronger) having just watched this… !
Credit goes to it’s apparent owner, Chris Weber.
Once you’ve started the video, be sure to select 480p and then go full screen!
By Chris Weber from his channel on YouTube
All flights at Heathrow and surrounding airports are canceled indefinitely due to volcanic ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano which erupted again Wednesday. Volcanic ash microscopic sand particles will stall jet engines if inhaled. Until the wind direction changes and redirects the ash, Europe’s major airport hub which handles 180,000 people per day will remain closed.
How would your modern survival instincts kick in here if you were among the thousands that have instantly become stranded at Heathrow?
Not knowing how long you may be stuck there, you will immediately be competing for transportation, food, or lodging services.
Quickly asses the situation. No need to jump in lines with thousands of others who can only ask for help. Think for yourself! Knowing that the situation won’t be back to normal until the weather changes and the ash cloud is redirected, and realizing that this disruption will last at least a day, quite possibly more, make quick decisions. This will make the difference between winners and losers.
Instead of standing in lines and queues, be first to get out if you choose. You could simply arrange alternate travel or obtain updates with the airlines via telephone.