Olafur Grimsson, the president of Iceland, has told the BBC's Newsnight program that people in Iceland have been expecting the recent and future eruption for some years, and that the government had made the necessary preparations for the rescue and emergency services to function the best they can.
In an article published in The Independent
today, the president is also quoted as saying
"... I think it is high time for European governments and airline authorities across the globe to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption. Because the history of these volcanoes in my country shows that they will erupt regularly, and the time for Katla to erupt is coming close. It's much bigger. What we have seen now is a small rehearsal of what would happen, I don't say if, but when Katla will erupt, because it usually erupts [on a large scale] every century and the last [major] one was in 1918."
Professor Bill McGuire, one of Britain's leading volcano experts according to a government website
, agrees, saying
"I certainly wouldn't be surprised if Katla erupted within the next year, but how much it affects Britain and northern Europe depends on what happens with the winds at the time."
The professor, who is part of the government's Cobra emergency committee, also pointed out that Katla has a much bigger ice cap than the recently erupted Eyjafjallajokull, and it the real reason for the explosions and for the ash to shoot up to high altitudes lies in the mixture of the melting, icy water and the hot, fiery lava.
How to prepare for this seemingly inevitable eruption of Katla is rather difficult when the time-frame is that large - it could happen tomorrow or perhaps during the World Cup in South Africa, or just as well on April Fool's Day 2011. Many people will find it difficult not to make any flight plans for a whole year. Instead, perhaps all we can do is to buy facial masks at the local pharmacy as long as they still have some.