Rumours are flying right now that volcano Katla in Iceland may be ready to blow. Increased seismic activity has observers on high alert to the possibility of a large eruption. Katla is a very large volcano that has erupted before.

Icelandic Met Office, Icelandic Institute of Earth Sciences

More than 500 tremors have been recorded in the last month. Sky News reports:
“A huge Icelandic volcano long overdue an eruption is showing signs of activity – threatening disruption to air traffic, experts have said.
There have been more than 500 tremors at Katla in the south of the country in just the last month. An increase in activity at the site since July has also been causing volcanologists concern, when increasing temperatures and seismic activity caused a flood, washing away a road bridge.

The last major eruption at the volcano was in 1918, and caused such a large glacier meltdown that icebergs were swept by the resulting floods into the ocean.

Significant activity at Katla – which has a huge 6.2 mile (10km) crater – usually occurs every 40 to 80 years. It is feared when it does eventually erupt, it could be the most powerful activity the country has seen in almost a century. Catastrophic flooding could result as the frozen surface of the volcano melts, sending vast amounts of water into the Atlantic Ocean.

Volcano expert Andy Hooper, from Delft University, said although there had been increased activity at the site, it was difficult to predict if and when Katla would erupt. However, he told Sky News Online that the implications for Iceland if an eruption did occur would be “major”. “Because of the glacier on top, massive amounts of ice would melt, washing away the roads. “There could also be a big ash fallout on people living in the area and that will affect the farms. “There could be big implications for people there.

“In terms of the rest of the world, it really depends on the weather at the time of the eruption. “If Katla erupts, it will erupt higher (than recent volcanoes) and that means the ash will stay around longer – that could impact on air traffic.”

A statement on Iceland’s Met Office website warned there was no imminent threat but that “given the heightened levels of seismic activity, the situation might change abruptly”. “Monitoring teams at the Icelandic Met Office are following the ongoing activity closely, and sensor-based networks around the volcano ensure that all seismological, geodetic, and hydrological changes are detected.”

In the meantime, while you’re waiting for Katla-induced global freeze-over, and due enjoy the overwhelming majesty of the Aurora Borealis over Iceland through the lens of Stefan Forster:

Copyright (c) 2011 Stefan Forster