Sudden Activity at Katla Volcano

base image credit: Icelandic Met Office
MSB overlay

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
MSB overlay

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
MSB overlay

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).

Stay tuned.

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.


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