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article imageActivity in Iceland's Volcano Katla sparks fear of eruption

By Leigh Goessl     Dec 2, 2011 in Environment
Katla has been more heavily on the radar of scientists ever since the massive Eyjafjallajokull eruption occurred in Iceland during the spring of 2010.
Katla is located approximately 12 miles (19.31 km) away from Eyjafjallajokull, and is buried under one of Iceland's massive glaciers, the Myrdalsjokull. The two volcanoes are linked through several channels of magma. Historically whenever Eyjafjallajokull awakens from its slumber, it nudges its neighbor Katla into activity.
The last three times volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted, Katla soon followed. Generally Katla erupts about every 40 to 80 years, and with the last occurrence in 1918. Volcanologists have been watching the southern Icelandic volcano with more scrutiny. According to experts, Katla is due to see activity.
According to Sky News, that activity has begun as Katla has been seeing a spike in tremors. Reportedly there have been more than 500 tremors at Katla over the past month alone, and overall activity has been cause for concern. Volcanologists say Katla has seen an increase in activity since July, along with increased temperatures and seismic activity; the combination of which caused a flood that washed away a road bridge.
In early October, Iceland's Met Office registered an "intense swarm of earthquakes." The agency stated on their website there "are no measurable signs" a Katla eruption would occur, however "given the heightened levels of seismicity, the situation might change abruptly."
Sky News reported volcano expert Andy Hooper, from Delft University, said it was hard to predict when and if Katla would erupt, but if it did, his belief appears to align with other scientists who had previously predicted when Eyjafjallajokull erupted that a Katla awakening could be far worse.
Hooper said, "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."
Back in 2010, scientists said a Katla eruption could be ten times stronger than the wrath of Eyjafjallajokull and shoot larger and higher plumes of ash, and also result in a tremendous amount of water seeping through Katla's opening.
International Business Times reported Icelanders feel the media is sensationalizing the issue.
"In Iceland we have to live with 30 active volcanoes. There are eruptions every 2-3 years. This is a part of life here," Páll Einarsson, professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, told the International Business Times. "There have been already three eruptions this year, one of them very large. This was in Grímsvötn in May. The other two were so small that we are still debating whether they actually occurred.
"Katla is one of our most active volcanoes," he said. "Some of its eruptions have been very large (1918), some quite small (1955, 1999). Even if Katla erupts, it does not mean that we have a catastrophe on our hands."
Katla historically is due to erupt based on previous patterns, however, ultimately it will be Mother Nature who decides the level of strength demonstrated when it happens.
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