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Iceland’s Katla Volcano is, once again, displaying signs of an imminent eruption. Are volcanologists crying wolf? It’s impossible to say, but given the current situation — and with so much at risk — how could they not?
By my count, this is my fifth YourWeatherBlog piece about the Katla volcano since the summer of 2010 (read previous entries here, here, here and — oh yes — here ). Remember, it was April of 2010 when Katla’s neighbor Eyjafjallajökull erupted and brought trans-Atlantic and western European air traffic to a near standstill. The underlying thought was (and is), If Eyjafjallajökull could do that (shut down air traffic), imagine what the larger Katla could do!
The Katla volcano is partially covered by the Mýrdalsjökull glacier. And it is larger. By some estimates much larger. Experts cite the last major eruption of Katla in 1918 as being five times larger than 2010′s Eyjafjallajökull which threw volcanic ash miles into the atmosphere and grounded vast amounts of air traffic for six days.
Might a major Katla eruption ground air traffic for a longer period and might the ash cloud spread much farther from Iceland? Most experts agree yes and yes. Those experts include ImpactWeather’s in-house geologist Fred Schmude who comments that the next Katla eruption will likely be a VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) 5, Plinian-type eruption as compared to the 1918 Katla eruption which was classified as a VEI 4 or perhaps a VEI 5. Eyjafjallajökull’s 2010 eruption was classified as VEI 4.
What does history tell us? It’s not good. Katla, since 930, has erupted 16 times at intervals of 13-95 years. It’s been 94 years since the VEI4/5 eruption of 1918. Presently, this is one of the longest periods of dormancy in its history. One way or another, it seems Katla is about to go into the record books.