“2nd Iceland volcano issues warning” (Katla speaks to MSNBC’s newshounds)

Summary:  Today’s fearful headlines about Icelandic volcanos from the news media and popular websites.  And the real story.  BTW — “soon” means something different to geologists than laypeople.

Disturbing:  “2nd Iceland volcano issues warning“, MSNBC, May 2010 — “Scientists say powerful Katla is ‘close to failure’.”  The opening is misleading but the full article is accurate.

A second, much larger volcano in Iceland is showing signs that it may be about to erupt, scientists have warned. Since the start of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which caused cancellations of thousands of flights in Europe because of a giant ash cloud, there has been much speculation about neighboring Katla. An initial research paper by the University College of London Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction said …

Terrifying:  “Iceland President Warns That ‘Significant Eruption At Katla Volcano Is Close’“, Zero Hedge, 27 May 2010 “Icelandic president Ólafur Grímsson has warned governments around Europe ‘that a significant eruption at the volcano is close.'”  He said no such thing.

The real story:  “Volcanic hazard from Iceland: analysis and implications of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption“, University College of London’s Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction, May 2010 — Red emphasis added.  Excerpt:

Since the start of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption there has been much speculation about an eruption of the larger, neighbouring Katla volcano.

 … There is no doubt that future explosive eruptions in Iceland and elsewhere, coupled with appropriate meteorological conditions, have the potential to cause further disruption to air transport. It is not possible, however, to predict either when this will occur, or at what scale.

… Whilst it is true that historic eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull (1612 and 1821-3) have been followed soon after by eruptions of Katla, a far more active volcano that erupts more frequently, with some 21 eruptions recognised in the historic period. These include much larger (up to VEI 5) explosive eruptions (most recently, in 1625, 1755 and 1918 that are unconnected to activity at Eyjafjallajökull.

… Analysis of the seismic energy released around Katla over the last decade or so (figure 13) is interpreted as providing evidence of a rising cryptodome (intrusive magma body) at Godabunga on the western flank of the volcano (Sturkell et al., 2010). Earlier seismic energy release at Katla is associated with the inflation of the volcano, which indicates it is close to failure, although this does not appear to be linked to seismicity around Eyjafjallajökull.

Summary: We conclude that given the high frequency of Katla activity, an eruption in the short term is a strong possibility. It is likely to be preceded by new earthquake activity. Presently there is no unusual seismicity under Katla.

More facts

Other posts about volcanoes

  1. About our certain doom from the Yellowstone supervolcano, 11 January 2009
  2. Global warming causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions (yes, this story is real), 17 April 2010
  3. More about shockwaves of the volcanic kind, 21 April 2010
  4. Might the current eruptions in Iceland become worse, affecting Europe – and perhaps our climate?, 19 May 2010


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