Recent seismic activity around Katla has civil authorities meeting with scientists on a regular basis, and has attracted the attention of the global media.
The Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010 brought air travel across Europe to a screeching halt, and made the rest of the world more aware of the constant geological activity which occurs here. Katla has now been receiving international attention, as rumbles in the area – and the potential magnitude of its pending eruption – could prove even more disruptive than Eyjafjallajökull.
Katla has a large eruption about twice a century. As the last eruption was about 93 years ago, many seismologists believe the volcano is long overdue for a big blast.
The AP reports that small earthquakes around the volcano have not only been increasing in frequency; they’ve been increasing in magnitude, going from about 3 on the Richter scale to 4 last week.
Páll Einarsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, told the AP that “It is definitely showing signs of restlessness.”
But not everyone is convinced that doom is impending. As Einar Kjartansson, a geophysicist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office, explains, “We’ve been getting calls recently from people concerned that Katla is about to erupt because it erupted … in 1918 on Oct. 12. As scientists we don’t see that much of a correlation in the date but there is most definitely increased activity. The question is whether it calms down after this or whether there is an eruption.”
For the moment, Icelandic scientists are keeping a close eye on the volcano, and keeping civil authorities informed. The nearest population centre to Katla, Vík, is a village of about 300 people, but there are also numerous farms in the area.
Evacuation procedures are already firmly established in the event of an eruption. For now, though, the volcano remains still.