Katla, a giant volcano hidden beneath the ice cap of Mýrdalsjökull glacier, is busy filling its magma chambers. An eruption in Katla would dwarf the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. The volcano is long “overdue” for an eruption, as it has historically erupted once every 40-80 years. The last known eruption in Katla was in 1918.
A group of Icelandic and British geologists have recently finished a research mission studying gas emissions from the volcano. The studies showed that Katla is emitting enormous quantities of CO2. The volcano releases at least 20 kilotons of C02 every day. Only two volcanoes worldwide are known to emit more CO2.
These enormous CO2 emissions confirm significant activity in the volcano. It is highly unlikely that these emissions could be produced by geothermal activity. There must also be a magma build up to release this quantity of gas.
However, more studies are needed to determine if the gas emissions from Katla are stable, or if they are increasing. It is well known from other volcanoes that CO2 emissions increase weeks or years ahead of eruptions. This is a clear sign we need to keep a close eye on Katla. She isn’t just doing nothing, and these findings confirm that there is something going on.
The scientists also detected significant quantities of methane and hydrogen sulfide. These gases can be present in dangerously high quantities where the rivers Emstruá and Múlakvísl emerge from beneath the glacier. People should show extreme caution when exploring ice caves in Mýrdalsjökull.
Meanwhile, a sharp earthquake swarm has been detected in Öræfajökull, one of the most powerful volcanoes in Iceland, since yesterday. A total of 15 quakes have been recorded in the volcano within the past 48 hours, including two significant M2+ quakes: A M2.7 quake Tuesday evening and a M2.6 on Wednesday. The volcano is kept under close surveillance.