Katla: Let's get ready to ruuuummmbbbbllle

Russ Steele writes:

Iceland Update: Katla is rumbling again

I wrote about the possibility that Katla is Iceland might become active again in this decade here, based on a swarm of earth quakes. Now those quakes are getting more intense.

Every time Katla has erupted in human history the human race has suffered. Now, with our dependence on air travel to transport food and people for business and tourism the impact will be significant in the short term. Long term the shortening of the growing season will impact the global food supply. The northern grain growing regions in the US, Canada and Russia will be unable to produce the surpluses that have fed hungry mouths around the world.  Some regions will shift southward, but will not be enough to feed the hungry.

Now the Katla quakes are becoming more intense, over shorter intervals. More details here.



The Volcansim blog writes:

A possible small eruption under the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap in south Iceland has produced a surge of glacial meltwater, a jökulhlaup, which has caused flooding and cut the main road through the area. A bridge has been swept away, and local evacuations are apparently taking place.


Last summer, nearly a year ago today, I wrote:

Katla making noise

Katla volcano in iceland sees 14 earthquakes in 48 hours. This may mean nothing, or it may be a prelude to an eruption. Either way it bears watching.

The difference between then and now is that the grouping of the epicenters has more focus. I’m not sure if that means anything, but it is worth noting.

Last year I also drew attention to this statement from Iceland’s president:

Katla Volcano usually erupts every century, says Iceland’s President Olafur Grimsson. and the last eruption was in 1918. “The time for Katla to erupt is coming close.”

“I don’t say if, but I say when Katla will erupt,” Grimsson says. “We have been waiting for that eruption for several years.”

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Luther Wu
July 9, 2011 10:31 am

I just love scary stories.
Where can I donate for tectonic justice?
(Women, children and minorities likely to be most affected.)

July 9, 2011 10:32 am

If it does it will make it almost impossible to prevent the CAWG crowd from using it as an explanation for lack of future warming in the near term.

Mike Bromley the Kurd
July 9, 2011 10:41 am

Eya-yi-yi-fyat-la yok-ktl? Pesky Mid-Ocean Ridges…and this is just the subaereal part. These emissions occur all around the world…underwater. Iceland just doesn’t wanna stay zipped up. Eyjafjallajökull…right next door. Grimsvötn. Now the Big Feller, Katla. And me jumping a plane home from Frankfurt to Calgary next week. Uh-oh. Little detour, because I can count the number of times I’ve peered out the starboard window of AC845 and seen the south of Iceland below.

July 9, 2011 10:53 am

“The time for Katla to erupt is coming close.”
– President Olafur Grimsson
Clearly anthropogenic.

July 9, 2011 10:56 am

It’s like Old Faithful Geyser, but with a little longer cycle.

July 9, 2011 11:04 am

Katla has been calming down in the afternoon, but see these pictures from the surface of the glacier: http://www.mbl.is/frettir/innlent/2011/07/09/myndir_af_sigkotlunum/

July 9, 2011 11:11 am

It’s reported that the Hekla magma chamber seems to be growing too, the surface has risen by 1m in a very short time. Though no earthquakes recorded, so it’s not likely to erupt for a while yet.

July 9, 2011 11:12 am

Here is the webcam looking at Mýrdalsjökull glacier / Katla. Not much to be seen now.
News in English: http://www.mbl.is/mm/frettir/english/

Jeff Wiita
July 9, 2011 11:28 am

Is there any scientific evidence to link earthquakes and volcanic activity to the sun’s interplanetary magnetic field and a decrease in sunspots?

July 9, 2011 11:30 am

Here is a map showing what part of the main road is now closed. See the red part of the road on the bottom right.
The water surge that damaged the 128 meter long bridge came down from the glacier just to the east (right) of the small village Vík. Last time when Katla erupted (1918) the water surge (called jökulhlaup) covered most of the sand Mýrdalssandur, or basically all the area where the red part of the road is. The surge this morning was very small compared to the real one.

July 9, 2011 11:45 am

John Seach has some current and historical info about Katla also: http://www.volcanolive.com/katla.html
Eruptions at Katla volcano are phreatomagmatic, and produce high eruption columns and catastrophic meltwater floods. Historically large eruptions have occurred at regular intervals about every 50 years.
Holocene eruptions at Katla volcano have been characterised by three types.
1) Basaltic explosive eruptions inside the caldera have occurred twice per century.
2) Silicic explosive eruptions in or near the caldera occur less frequently.
3) Large effusive basaltic fissure eruptions, producing volumes of 10 cubic km have occurred on two occasions during the Holocene.
Earthquakes at Katla Volcano
Katla has been seismically active for at least the past forty years, with two distinct areas predominating – Gooabunga rise in the west, and within Katla caldera in the centre. Earthquakes are more common during the autumn than during spring. There is almost no seismicity at the beginning of the year, and the earthquakes start to
occur in late summer. Seismicity indicates an intruding hot and acidic cryptodome, with a summit at a depth of 1.5 km.
2011 Eruption
An eruption possibly started at Katla volcano, Iceland on 9th July 2011. A glacial flood, possibly from an eruption of Katla volcano under the Mýrdalsjökull icecap damaged Highway number 1 by the river Múlakvísl. The bridge across Múlakvísl has was damaged and the road closed between Höfdabrekka, east of Vík, and Skálm River, near Álftaver.

July 9, 2011 11:52 am

Hopefully it will hit at the end of the Northern growing season, so the effects are mitigated. If it goes now we have a problem if it waits a few months we hopefully just end up with a longer winter and some shutdown air traffic.

July 9, 2011 12:04 pm

Just speculating here, but given the proximity of Katla to the ocean (~ 20 miles) and the fact that the sea floor drops rather quickly to -3500ft or so, has anyone thought about the possibility of a large land-slip tsunami resulting from a large eruption? The landforms to the south of Katla seem to indicate this may have occurred in the past.

July 9, 2011 12:04 pm

Call me…skeptic, but I am still unconvinced if airplanes get grounded because of the volcanoes, or because of an overeager Met Office and its reality-free computer models.

July 9, 2011 12:11 pm

This is ridiculous. Here is a completely uncontrolled emission source that SHOULD be regulated and controlled. But no, Iceland just sails along, completely oblivious and NOT DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT.
I don’t understand why the UN hasn’t been sanctioning them, and possibly even sending them a strongly worded letter. Whatever else, Iceland has to take responsibility and clean up their property. If that thing erupts again, I expect serious legal ramifications, since nothing was done to prevent it.
Too often the only reaction to these kinds of things is “Flee! Flee!” Now, I ask you, is this a proper and responsible attitude in these days of technology and enlightenment???? Of course not. We Have To Do Something! First of all, every person in the world who could potentially be affected by this thing should be taxed to raise enough money to deal with the problem.
And don’t laugh. If there’s even a CHANCE that we could change the outcome, then it would be morally and ethically wrong to not try. If we put all possible resources into capping this volcano, and it disrupts our economy, that’s nothing compared to doing nothing, and having it alter our civilization for us. Maybe we could start pumping cold seawater into it to cool it. Or, everyone could donate $5/day for “specialists” on sight to take pictures and look serious and investigative.
Okay, laugh… it was /sarc (but just like alarmists)

July 9, 2011 12:12 pm

Wow… did I actually type “on sight” when I meant “on-site”??? Apparently… sigh

July 9, 2011 1:13 pm

Don’t panic Cool Tech. Julia Gillard is introducing a carbon tax, so a an office in Canberra Australia will be controlling Gaia and volcanoes etc from now on. Senator Brown ( Greens) thinks we should have a One World Government which could be run from Australia. Amazing the power of taxation to green ambitions.

July 9, 2011 1:19 pm

“When Katla went off in the 1700s, the USA suffered a very cold winter,” says Gary Hufford, a scientist with the Alaska Region of the National Weather Service. “To the point, the Mississippi River froze just north of New Orleans and the East Coast, especially New England, had an extremely cold winter.”
have been shown to influence Earth’s climate;
including in the infamous Year Without a Summer;
which was partially caused by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora;
and is called a Volcanic Winter:
There is no guarantee that Katla;
will go big like she did in 1755 or 934;
1918 – VEI4 or VEI5; about 0.7 cubic Km ejected material
1860 – VEI4
1823 – VEI3
1755 – VEI5; 1.5 cubic Km ejected material. Flood discharge 200,000–400,000 m³/s
1721 – VEI5
1660 – VEI4
1625 – VEI5
1612 – VEI4
1580 – VEI4
934 – VEI5 or VEI6, 5 cubic Km of tephra and 18 cubic Km of lava
but it certainly seems like something we should be prepared for. Perhaps our Federal, State and Local governments should have volcano preparedness plans in place for a potential eventuality that Iceland’s President Olafur Grimsson has “been waiting for” and thinks “is coming close”?
Also, just an observation, but Katla blew 4 times in 80 years, between 1580 and 1660, which coincides with the depths of the Little Ice Age:
and has only blown once since 1860, and not at all since 1918, which coincides with a warming period:
Not to say that Katla or volcanoes are the primary driver of Earth’s average temperature, but they are certainly a variable that should be carefully observed and accounted for.

July 9, 2011 1:55 pm

Please don’t monger the scares:
With this hiccup at Katla, I’m sure the “disaster mongering” will start to ramp up into a frenzy with people expecting a giant eruption from the volcano. Knowing this, Dr. Freysteinn Sigmundsson even said “At least this is not a large eruption, the Katla eruption people have been waiting for.” Katla hasn’t erupted since 1918, although there have been events – in 1955 and 1999 – that may have been small eruptive events. When Katla does decide to not hide its eruptive activity, we are likely to expect something fairly large, in the VEI 3-5 scale. However, at this point, this is no indication that Katla is headed towards a major eruption.
If Katla does show signs of a new eruption, there is currently at least one webcam pointed at the volcano – but I’m sure this event will prompt a flurry of new webcams in the near future, so if you find one, post the link here. The Icelandic Met Office also has realtime tremor and GPS information (check out stations GOLA, HVOL and THEY) at Katla, although you have to know where the volcano is located to click on the right station

Billy Liar
July 9, 2011 1:58 pm

@Just the Facts
You missed a few eruptions out of your list. Apparently Katla’s eruptive history of monotonous regularity goes back at least as far as 6380BC with rarely more than 150 years without an eruption.

Billy Liar
July 9, 2011 1:59 pm
July 9, 2011 2:00 pm

Northern Hemisphere volcanoes are scary considering how dangerous southern hemisphere volcanoes have been.

July 9, 2011 2:04 pm

Well… in conjunction with Just The Facts post, if you look at the data at http://www.volcano.si.edu, Katla erupts within twenty years of it’s last eruption about 12.3% of the time.
If you look at known VEI 3 (or greater) eruptions, it averages 78.4 years between eruptions. (eruptive data back to 920 AD). Using that same set and going back to 1920 BC, the average is 186 years.
Additionally, if you look at the spread of the quakes, they are no where near as clustered as Eyjafjallajökull from last year.
But on the other hand, (if I remember correctly) Katla has already undergone inflation over the last few years, and the Eyjafjallajökull eruption (next door) didn’t change that.

July 9, 2011 2:23 pm

You may want to see some video from the site on the Icelandic State Television.
The evening news today: http://dagskra.ruv.is/sjonvarpid/4547399/2011/07/09/
Note the smaller crater on the glacier with high vertical walls. It seems clear that it was made by a violent explosion, probably steam heated by a small amount of magma.

July 9, 2011 2:36 pm

I found this blog that is also covering Katla, and has an interesting graphic showing real time harmonic tremor updates.
It is interesting to note in the graphic that the high frequency components and the low frequency components have swapped places, since the recent outburst, with the high frequency now the dominant component.
Not sure what it means, although a sudden step change like that probably indicates some change of state inside the volcano like more rapid movement of the magma into the chamber (or out of the main chamber). I am inferring it is sort of like the rising whistle of a tea kettle on the boil.
Only time will tell, it could be a complete dud or could go big, we will just have to wait and watch, but if I was in northern Europe I would certainly be, double checking my state of readiness for a large disruption in daily life, just in case.

Don Keiller
July 9, 2011 2:39 pm

Don’t want to sound alarmist, but I’m sure I remember that when Eyjafjallajökull went off last year, Icelandic geologists were saying that in the past there was strong evidence to suggest that Katla would erupt within 2-3 years.
Hope it is not a big one.

July 9, 2011 2:40 pm

Just The Facts
I see that the blast in 1918 caused the southern coast of Iceland south of Katla to be extended by 3 miles out from the mud and debris flow.

July 9, 2011 3:39 pm

Don Keiller says:
July 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm
“,.. I’m sure I remember that when Eyjafjallajökull went off last year, Icelandic geologists were saying that in the past there was strong evidence to suggest that Katla would erupt within 2-3 years…”
Thats a somewhat biased assumption. There was a lot of mention that ‘whenever Eyjafjallajökull erupted that Katla’ would follow because they always erupted in tandem. The problem is that until last year, Eyjafjallajökull had four known eruptions on record. Two of them were in the same year, one was a two year lead, and the other was a ten year lead. But Eyjafjallajökull has an average repose period of 423 years (from the four recorded eruptions) and Katla has an average repose of 64.5 years.
It’s pretty hard for Eyjafjallajökull to erupt and not have Katla either in a run up stage to an eruption or having just finished one.
The part about the Eyjafjallajökull event that I remember the geologist ruminating over, was if this would illustrate the long hypothesized connection between the two volcanoes. Even 3D plots of the quakes didn’t reveal a connection.
Post Eyjafjallajökull there were a few scattered quakes that may indicate sill or dike emplacement on the North Western flank of Katla, but these more recent quakes aren’t anywhere near that.
Will it erupt? Yep. When? When it’s ready, and not a moment sooner.

July 9, 2011 3:43 pm

Overview of the site where the bridge was washed away.

July 9, 2011 4:16 pm

Der Spiegel reports on possible Hekla’s Eruption
Come together, right now?

Nick Shaw
July 9, 2011 5:49 pm

If this volcano pops and a corelation between it’s eruption and the Little Ice Age pans out could someone tell me when I should start my car and tractor and leave them running? You know, to create some more global warming to offset the effects of the volcano.
Maybe Mr. Mann would know.
Seriously though, what might be in store for us lowly humans if there is a coincidence of this eruption and an extremely quiet sun?
I don’t think I will regret moving from Canada to high ground near the equator if the answer is what I think it will be. Just sayin’.

July 9, 2011 6:04 pm

Perry says:
July 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm
Overview of the site where the bridge was washed away.
Nice video, and a reminder of who is in charge, in case anyone forgot.

Mike Hebb
July 9, 2011 6:33 pm

Wasn’t there some mega storm predicted that could hit California a few months back and then recently the threat of a huge solar flare that could fry all our electric systems and now this volcano could send the earth into permanent winter.
I see the “could” word way too much. Someone must be making money off it.

nutso fasst
July 9, 2011 6:53 pm

“…blog that is also covering Katla…
If you remove the “p=1152” you get more recent updates:

July 9, 2011 8:04 pm

Amino Acids in Meteorites says: July 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm (Edit)
I see that the blast in 1918 caused the southern coast of Iceland south of Katla to be extended by 3 miles out from the mud and debris flow.

Yes, history can be sobering, e.g.:
“The effects of recent volcanic eruptions on winters are modest in scale but historically their effects have been significant.
Most recently, the 1991 explosion of Mount Pinatubo, a stratovolcano in the Philippines, cooled global temperatures for about 2–3 years.[2]
In 1883, the explosion of Krakatoa (Krakatau) created volcanic winter-like conditions. The next four years after the explosion were unusually cold, and the winter of 1887 to 1888 included powerful blizzards.[3] Record snowfalls were recorded worldwide.
The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, a stratovolcano in Indonesia, occasioned mid-summer frosts in New York State and June snowfalls in New England and Newfoundland and Labrador in what came to be known as the “Year Without a Summer” of 1816.
A paper written by Benjamin Franklin in 1783 blamed the unusually cool summer of 1783 on volcanic dust coming from Iceland, where the eruption of Laki volcano had released enormous amounts of sulfur dioxide, resulting in the death of much of the island’s livestock and a catastrophic famine which killed a quarter of the population. Temperatures in the northern hemisphere dropped by about 1 °C in the year following the Laki eruption.
In 1600, the Huaynaputina in Peru erupted. Tree ring studies show that 1601 was cold. Russia had its worst famine in 1601 to 1603. From 1600 to 1602, Switzerland, Latvia and Estonia had exceptionally cold winters. The wine harvest was late in 1601 in France, and in Peru and Germany wine production collapsed. Peach trees bloomed late in China, and Lake Suwa in Japan froze early.[4]
In 1452 or 1453, a cataclysmic eruption of the submarine volcano Kuwae caused worldwide disruptions.
The Great Famine of 1315–1317 in Europe may have been precipitated by a volcanic event,[5] perhaps that of Kaharoa, New Zealand, which lasted about five years.[6]
The extreme weather events of 535–536 are most likely linked to a volcanic eruption.”
Based on a compilation;
1680 – VEI5? – Tongkoko, Sulaw
1673 – VEI5? – Gamkonora, Halmahera
1667 – VEI5 – Shikotsu (Tarumai), Japan
1663 – VEI5 – Usu, Japan
1660 – VEI4 – Katla
1660 – VEI6 – Long Island (Papua New Guinea)
1650 – VEI6 – Kolumbo, Santorini
1641 – VEI6 – Mount Parker
1640 – VEI5 – Komaga-Take, Japan
1625 – VEI5 – Katla
1612 – VEI4 – Katla
1600 – VEI6 – Huaynaputina
1593 – VEI5? – Raung, Java
1586 – VEI5? – Kelut, Java
1580 – VEI4 – Katla
1580 ± 20 – VEI6 – Billy Mitchell
I found 13 major eruptions, and left in the 3 VEI4s from Katla, between 1580 and 1680. Whereas from 1900 to present I’ve found;
1902 – VEI6(?) – Santa Maria, Guatemala
1907 – VEI5 – Ksudach, Kamchatka
1912 – VEI6 – Novarupta (Katmai)
1932 – VEI5+ – Azul, Cerro (Quizapu)
1956 – VEI5 – Bezymianny, Kamchatchka
1980 – VEI5 – St Helens, US
1982 – VEI5 – El Chichon, Mexico
1991 – VEI6 – Pinatubo, Philippines
8 major eruptions, and none since 1991.
Did I miss any?

July 9, 2011 8:38 pm

The earthquakes around Katla have been focusing into three smaller regions, one half-way between Katla and Eyjafjallajokull, the second and current most prominent being in the calderas of Katla, and there is a smaller grouping nearer the coast. This has been going on since April, and has continued after the flood came and went, so I don’t think that this is over yet.

Mac the Knife
July 9, 2011 10:42 pm

Where’s 40% R(ickity) R(easoning) Gates?
I REALLY want to hear how the additional 100ppm of CO2 added to the atmosphere since (whenever it’s convenient, R) has had such a drastic greenhouse effect that it is causing Katla to boil liquid basalt and spit silica! Heck, the added weight of that whopping 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 (It’s millions of tons, ya know…) is likely depressing the techtonic (gin for the IT folks?) plates about 40% and causing 40% of the earthquakes and tsunamis off Japan!
Hmmmm – Now what made me think about a 40% gin and tonic? With at least 100ppm of anthropogenic lime juice, of course??!!

Mac the Knife
July 9, 2011 10:50 pm

Perry says:
July 9, 2011 at 3:43 pm
“Overview of the site where the bridge was washed away.
Nice series of standing waves in that video…. good footage! Thanks!

July 10, 2011 12:40 am

Etna is having another puff too it seems. Catania airport is apparently closed while they clear up the mess.

July 10, 2011 2:08 am

I’ve been watching the earthquakes ever since the other volcano erupted and they were predominently between the two volcanoes and moving more to the east over time, now they are to the south east for the first time and there are a lot more of them, showing the sligh eruption.
Will be interesting to follow what happens in the next couple of months.

John Marshall
July 10, 2011 2:39 am

Earthquakes associated with a volcano normally shows magma movement in the conduit. Quake depth may be a predictor of timing to eruption but may not. It probably depends on each individual volcano. Those with a slow eruptive cycle are more difficult to predict because our history is scant to non existant.
Katla is different since we have a good history but it is still impossible to state which day, let alone hour, it will spring to life.
Life on Iceland can be exciting.

July 10, 2011 9:29 am

SSam says:
July 9, 2011 at 2:04 pm
Well… in conjunction with Just The Facts post, if you look at the data at http://www.volcano.si.edu, Katla erupts within twenty years of it’s last eruption about 12.3% of the time.
If you look at known VEI 3 (or greater) eruptions, it averages 78.4 years between eruptions. (eruptive data back to 920 AD). Using that same set and going back to 1920 BC, the average is 186 years.

78.4 years is close to the Gleissberg cycle length of solar activity.
186 years is close to the cycle of the outer gas giants which often coincides with solar grand minima.

July 11, 2011 8:43 am

Civilization has had excellent luck for the past 150 years, decent luck for the past 500 and at least fair to midland conditions for the past 10K. Can’t last. Never does.

Dave Springer
July 11, 2011 12:50 pm

Great. All we need right now to augment a grand minimum in solar activity is one or more volcanoes big enough to inject a load of cooling aerosols into the atmosphere at the same time as well as the glacial stage of the Milankovich cycle knocking on the door. Hear that bell in the distance – it’s the Holocene Interglacial death knoll.

July 11, 2011 4:46 pm

Katla is programming its next eruption just before the NH winter …(Guess Katla is a girl name then ….) 🙂

July 11, 2011 5:35 pm

The recent flood did not change the pattern of the quakes which continues to focus in three areas. I have shown how this focussing developed, and explained why it is occuring and also why, the longer the delay is, the more likely it will be a stronger eruption .

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