Four Of Iceland's Volcanoes Are Priming To Erupt

The spectacular 2014-2015 eruption of Baroarbunga, with a plane there giving a sense of scale. SnorriThor/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 07 Feb 2017, 20:22

As we all know, Iceland is a profoundly volcanic place with a variety of eruption styles – from spewing out a little or a lot of lava, to exploding so violently that Europe gets blanketed in ash.

Well, as reported by the Iceland Monitor, the nation’s soothsaying geophysicist Páll Einarsson claims that four of the country’s angry mountains are exhibiting pre-eruptive conditions. Apart from that, however, little information has been given.

The volcanoes in question are Katla, Hekla, Bárðarbunga, and Grímsvötn. With no data or references given in the post, we decided to do a little digging ourselves.

So what of Katla? Well, it’s a rather sizable volcano that has indeed been showing signs of restlessness recently, with tremors hitting around the 4.6M mark. These quakes are possibly indications of magma ascending upwards through the crust and causing it to violently fracture, but as of yet, there’s no definitive proof of this.

Katla occasionally lets off some steam through minor lava flows, but there hasn’t been a major eruption for several decades. Its average recurrence rate for something significant and potentially dangerous is once every 50 years. The last notable event back in 2011 produced some impressive streams of lava, but it was not enough to smash through the Mýrdalsjökull glacier capping it at the surface.

When it inevitably does, a massive ash plume – akin to the one produced by the Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 – could be generated, which would mean that Northern Europe’s airspace will be immediately shut down. According to a recent study, however, such an epic plume only appears once every 44 years, so we’ve probably got some time before that happens again.

It’s worth noting, however, that the 2011 event produced a “jökulhlaup”, a flash flood caused by part of the glacier melting. It was powerful enough to sweep away a major bridge – although luckily without any accompanying deaths.

Eyjafjallajokull erupting in 2010. Gardar Olafsson/Shutterstock

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