A speculative article in the BBC raises some alarming questions about the supposed imminence of the eruption of Katla.
Katla has been on people’s minds most prominently since the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in 2010, which shut down air traffic across much of Europe and North America. Now the BBC has spoken to two experts on the matter: Ford Cochran, National Geographic’s expert on Iceland, and Professor Páll Einarsson of the University of Iceland Institute of Earth Sciences.
“There have been more than 500 tremors in and around the caldera of Katla just in the last month, which suggests the motion of magma. And that certainly suggests an eruption may be imminent,” said Ford. He cited the 1783 eruption, which had devastating effects not only in Iceland, but around the world. “Folks talk about a nuclear winter – this eruption generated enough sulphuric acid droplets that it made the atmosphere reflective, cooled the planet for an entire year or more and caused widespread famine in many places around the globe. One certainly hopes that Katla’s eruption will not be anything like that!”
Páll, who has been studying volcanoes for about 40 years now, took a more cautious approach, saying, “The possibility that it may include a larger eruption cannot be excluded. Katla is a very active and versatile volcano. It has a long history of large eruptions, some of which have caused considerable damage.”
In the end, though, the BBC concludes that the greater threat to Iceland – in particular, to the state of its glaciers – is not fiery hot magma, but climate change.