Katla Volcano EarthQuakes – Flooding – Sulfur Smell


The Katla volcano in Iceland is making itself known once again. Been following this one for a while. It has a nasty history of blowing its top between 6 months and 1.5 years after it’s volcanic sister neighbor, Eyjafjallojokull, which erupted back during April 2010.

A geologist ‘insider’ tells me that harmonic tremors have started in Katla again. As of today there have been 2 earthquake swarms, making that 3 since June.

In addition, and more immediately tangible, the Myrdalsjokull glacier flood has just been reported (Katla is underneath this glacier). Last time this type of event did happen was in the year 1955, when a minor eruption is believed to have taken place under the glacier. There is no immediate proof that this is the case right now. This might just be hydrothermal water being released because of increased activity in hydrothermal areas that are in the glacier.

Following the flood there is a strong smell of sulfur and there might be dangerous gases in it. At the current time the flood appears to be growing and according to the news the bridge was still safe. But there was just 1 meter from the river up to the floor of the bridge.

Stay tuned, as this one ‘could’ disrupt Europe for awhile if she blows.

Update: July 9
The bridge over Múlakvísk river is gone, they are now evacuating Áftaver due to second flood. It is now very dangerous to be close to Múlakvísl due to poisons gases and risk of the flood increasing without any warning. A third glacier flood has now also started in Skálmu, but that is also a glacier river that flows from Mýrdalsjökull glacier. This does not seems to be just hydrothermal areas emptying. This could be a repeat of the 1955, 1999 floods when there were very minor eruptions.

We do not know what the events are leading to an eruption but historical records show this event has been a precursor to an eruption in the past, hence its folklore. A 2.2m quake has just happened in the caldera at 1.1km. Harmonic tremors are decreasing again but have been ongoing during the last 10 hours. GPS data shows inflation and deflation, very interesting.

Update: July 9
Harmonic tremors stopping again but has been on and off all the time. Reports coming in that sulfur is still very strong and is very dangerous to persons and livestock.

Quakes have ceased,for now, also a decrease in the harmonic tremors. Three cauldrons have formed in Mýrdalsjökull glacier and large cracks have formed around them. The Múlakvísl flood came from underneath the glacial tongue Höfdabrekkujökull. The glacial ice is considerably cracked where the flood emerged. Glacial ice is stranded in a large area which indicates that the flood is coming to an end.

While there are NO indications that a major volcanic eruption has started, or even about to in Katla, it cannot be ruled out that a minor eruption could have happened last night.

Icelandic TV Video of Myrdalsjokull-Katla Flood

Update: July 9
Harmonic tremors have just started again along with 7 more quakes.
3rd quake storm (today) now ongoing. Harmonic tremors now rising again.

Update, July 11
Action has subsided. Here are photos of the damage at the Myrdalsjokull glacier with Katla underneath.




Update, July 18

Katla has belted off a storm of what appears to be dozens of earthquakes today, within minutes, with one nearly a magnitude 4. This volcano, which has always erupted between 6 months and 1.5 years after Eyjafjallajokull (it’s neighbor), is ripe within the window of eruption based on its known history. Something is happening beneath the glacier today.

Also, a very interesting area of 3 quakes developed around the same time to the south of Katla, along the coast of Iceland. No known volcano is there either. Interesting…

Update, July 20
4 NEW cauldrons have appeared on the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and the cauldrons that formed on the 8 and 9th July have also deepened. This is due to magma pushing closer to the surface and heating the crust.This then melts the glacier ice and the water seeps into the rock creating a hydrothermal vent that increases the melt and forms a cauldron ( depression in the ice). This will increase the likely hood of another glacier flood to the south east of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.

This does NOT mean it is about to erupt but the increase of such activity can only mean an eruption event is likely in the near future. On the 17th of July a earthquake storm happened with the largest quake being 3.8 magnitude. If Katla was bursting to erupt this could have triggered a larger quake storm and an eruption.

The next 6 weeks could be very interesting indeed.

Update, July 21

From our geological expert:

There appears to be 3 areas of activity. Inside the caldera itself, Goðabunga to the west we know is a hydrothermal vent, but to the south is something new. We noticed it starting 3 weeks ago and seems to be increasing in magnitude and frequency. Now this could be an extension of the East Fracture Zone growing due to Katla inflation of a weak spot in the crust that could develop into another hydrothermal vent, or even allow magma to breach the surface. Worth watching anyway.

Hydrothermal activity inside the caldera continues and the occasional spill (minor flooding) has occurred but this is what we would expect. Inflation is now evident to the east and south east but not rapid. Harmonic tremors have stopped again but they are small and infrequent at present. I MUST stress that this time of year the amount of earthquakes DOES increase, on the ice shelves, as the ice melts. That said Katla has not been this active probably since its last eruption in 1918.

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  1. PT July 9, 2011 12:28 PM
  2. Beano July 9, 2011 5:37 PM
  3. R. de Haan July 13, 2011 11:44 AM
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