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Iceland warns dangerous volcano likely to erupt

February 2, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Icelandic authorities have warned the country’s tour operators to prepare contingency plans to deal with the likely imminent eruption of one of the largest volcanoes in the country, Katla. 

Iceland’s volcanoes cause periodic havoc to air traffic, with ash clouds drifting into the upper atmosphere. In 2010 an eruption caused the cancellation of over 100,000 flights and stranded over 10 million passengers around the world.

Chief of Police in South Iceland, Kjartan Þorkelsson, told Iceland Monitor yesterday that authorities are preparing to close off popular tourist routes in South Iceland so that visitors will not stray too close to Katla, which is now being rattled by earthquakes.

One of Iceland’s largest and most active volcanoes, Katla normally erupts every 40 to 80 years. It last blew in 1918, so it’s well overdue. An earthquake of magnitude 4.3 shook Katla at the weekend, originating from the middle of the caldera underneath Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which partially covers Katla. Scientists believe increased seismic activity over recent months indicates Katla is soon likely to erupt.

This 99-year-old photo shows Katla’s last eruption in 1918


The volcano has erupted at least 20 times since the year 930 AD.

Monitoring of Katla has intensified following the March 2010 eruptions of a smaller neighbouring volcano, the long-dormant Eyjafjallajökull. It was the Eyjafjallajökull eruption that paralysed international air traffic in 2010.

Over the past 1000 years, all three known eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull have triggered subsequent eruptions of the far larger and more dangerous Katla.

In April 2010, following the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions, Iceland’s then President, Ólafur Grímsson, warned: “The time for Katla to erupt is coming close … we [Iceland] have prepared … it is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over Europe and the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption.”

Seven years have slipped by since.

Written by Peter Needham

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