Six years after the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 caused the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights across Europe on concern that glass-like particles formed from lava might melt in aircraft engines and clog turbines, Iceland met office raised the alarm after its largest volcano was hit by the biggest tremors since 1977. Katla, named after an evil troll, is in southern Iceland about 140 kilometers (87 miles) from the capital, Reykjavik.
Two quakes larger than 4 in magnitude early Monday rocked the crater of Katla, the country’s Met Office said in a statement. That was followed by at least 10 more tremors at the volcano, which rises 1,450 meters (4,757 feet) into the air on the North Atlantic island’s southern coast.
The good news is that the Icelandic Meteorological Office is reporting that so far no tremor is currently recorded currently at Katla, which suggests that at least for the moment, no magma is making its way to the surface. Icelandic officials have not changed the alert status for Katla from normal at this point.
As Bloomberg notes, there were no immediate reports of casualties or damages to property.
From the statement:
This night on 29 August at 01:41 an earthquake swarm started within the Katla caldera. Two earthquakes were over M4. The largest earthquake occurred at 01:47:02 M4.5 and another one 20 seconds later, M4.6. The largest earthquakes were felt in the area. About 20 aftershocks have been recorded. No tremor has been seen. About 40 earthquakes have been detected within the Katla caldera from midnight. Most of them occurred before 3 AM. The largest earthquke since then had a magnitude M3.3 at 15:12.
Historically, Eyjafjallajokull has been known to erupt one to two years prior to Katla. Katla last erupted in 1955 and 1999. Neither of those were large enough to break the ice covering its 10 kilometer-wide (6 mile) caldera. Its last major eruption was back in 1918, when it spewed ash for more than five weeks.
According to Wired, two big hazards exist at Katla right now. One is that the volcano might have its first eruption this century. That lack of harmonic tremor means that the likelihood of an imminent eruption is low. The other hazard might be a jökulhlaup, or glacial outburst flood. Melting from the summer within the Myrdalsjokull icecap and that meltwater can accumulate until it spills over as a flood of water, ice, and debris. These have occurred often and do not need to be associated with any volcanic activity.
Cited by ABC, Gunnar Gudmundsson, a geophysicist, said authorities are monitoring the situation at the volcano in southern Iceland and described it as "a little bit unusual." The quakes measured magnitude 4.2 and magnitude 4.5 and were followed by some 20 aftershocks.
"People have been waiting for an eruption for 50 years," Gudmundsson said of Katla. "But there is no sign of an eruption." Still, Katla does have a history of large, explosive eruptions, which means it makes people nervous. Keeping an eye on any restlessness at the behemoth is vital for both the people of Iceland and for air travel across the North Atlantic.
Since this is eerily similar to the current global monetary situation, one hopes that Gudmundsson's soothing words are as applicable to the financial situation around the globe as it is to Iceland's largest volcano.