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Will Iceland’s Katla Volcano Blow Next?

May 8, 2010, by Ken Jorgustin

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Each time following an eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano, it’s mighty neighbor, Katla, has erupted shortly afterward. Eyjafjallajokull and Katla are separated by 27 km (17 mi) and are thought to have interconnecting magma channels. Eyjafjallajokull erupted on April 14, 2010.

Katla (named after an Icelandic witch) is known to have erupted 16 times since 930, the last time during 1918. Since then, Katla has been quiet for the longest duration on record. It is overdue, and now that it’s little sister Eyjafjallajokull has erupted, it’s just a matter of time.

Katla itself is 30 km (19 mi) in diameter reaching a height of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet), while the 10 km (6 mi) crater of the volcano lies up to 500 meters (1,600 feet) beneath the Myrdalsjokull glacier on the southern edge of Iceland. Iceland sits directly on top of a split in the earth’s crust of two tectonic plates on the Mid-Atlantic ridge and is a hot spot for volcanic activity with 35 volcanoes around the island.

An eruption of Katla would likely be 10 times stronger than the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and could be disastrous to Iceland with raging floods from the melting Myrdalsjokull glacier, immense depths of volcanic ash, and climate change to regions of the world.

If the eruption is long enough and high enough, ash could be blasted 20 km (12 mi) into the stratosphere and circle the globe blotting out part of the sun from penetrating to earth, and reduce temperatures worldwide. The big question of course is how big would the eruption be and to what extent the global climate change.

We know that when Katla erupted in 1700, the Mississippi River froze just north of New Orleans for example. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991 for 2 days, it dropped temperatures 4 degrees worldwide for a year. Katla on average erupts for 50 days, although the cumulative severity over that time period depends on the force of the eruptions lifting ash high into the atmosphere. We won’t know until it happens.

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Although the magnitude of disaster would not be that of a super volcano such as Wyoming’s Yellowstone, the potential is there for a global catastrophe from a worldwide extended deep freeze. Huge crop failures would translate to starvation for some and very high food prices for others. A ripple effect would occur through the already teetering economies of the world.

Since the potential exists for a major Katla eruption, we should prepare ourselves as best we can, knowing that modern society would be disrupted from a disaster of this magnitude (just look at what happened to worldwide air travel and the economic impact from the small eruption of Eyjafjallajokull).

A first and best course of preparedness action is to begin with the survival basics, storing extra food and water. Food storage is a financially sound thing to do as food prices will not be going down in the future. Buy and store extra food that you would normally eat, and implement inventory rotation. Even if disaster does not strike, you will consume the extra food anyway while benefiting from peace of mind.

Could we survive a Super Volcano?


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