Katla watching: Icelanders plan for next catastrophic volcanic eruption


Katla last erupted in 1918. Never before in recorded history have 99 years passed without an eruption from the volcano.

And eight out of the last 10 eruptions at Katla have occurred between September and November during glacial melting.

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Preparing Katla volcano eruption. via Iceland monitor

After a summer of increased seismic activity at Katla, Icelanders are obsessing over the smallest sign of an eruption at the country’s most closely watched volcano.

Of Iceland’s 30 active volcanoes, none is watched more closely than Katla. The volcano lies under hundreds of meters of ice, meaning that any eruption could trigger desastrous floods. The volume of water that could stream toward the black volcanic beaches is predicted to reach 300,000 cubic meters per second.

Over the past 11 months, the Icelandic Met Office has twice apnews.com/…/Watching-Katla:-Icelanders-plan-for-next-volcanic-eruptionraised its Katla alert level to yellow. The Mulakvisl River near Vik was flooded. But Vik is prepared for the worst. In the event of an eruption, all 543 residents will know what to do and where to go: to the church, which is sheltered by the mountain.

On average, a major volcanic event occurs once every five years in Iceland.

The Eyjafjallajokull eruption of April 2010 – the last major volcanic eruption on the island – created an ash cloud that stranded more than 10 million people. Is Katla capable of doing the same?

Controlling Katla is above my pay grade, I think. All we know for sure is that every day we move closer to the next eruption. Get ready!

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