From Iceland — Earthquakes In Mýrdalsjökull Start Discussions About Possible Eruption Of Katla

Earthquakes In Mýrdalsjökull Start Discussions About Possible Eruption Of Katla

Published October 17, 2022

Photo by
Art Bicnick

The question that is on the minds of geoscientists at the moment is whether the ground movements in Mýrdalsjökull are possibly a precursor to a flow or eruption in Katla, reports RÚV. Either way, the notice would be short and the sequence of events fast. Three earthquakes above magnitude three were measured in Mýrdalsjökull yesterday, and the largest was three point eight.

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Kristín Jónsdóttir, group leader of nature monitoring at the Icelandic Met Office, says that it is unusual for three earthquakes of the larger type to occur at short intervals in Mýrdalsjökull.

“They were all there, because there are well-known geothermal boilers, which are actually just geothermal areas inside the caldera. There are twenty such areas inside the caldera, and these earthquakes occur near such geothermal areas. So there is always the question: are these earthquakes a sign that we are getting runoff from Katla or is this the volcano,” said Kristín.

Popular ice caves in the area have now been closed, as there is a risk of gas pollution if there is a leak, not to mention the danger created by the water plume itself.

As for volcanic eruptions, Kristín says that not much is known about the lead-up. That is why it is difficult to say for sure that yesterday’s earthquakes are possibly a precursor to an eruption. The last eruption in Katla was in the disastrous year 1918, and therefore the best expert sources on the precursors of the eruption are chronicles from that time.

“We have no measurements of volcanic eruptions in Katla, of which we are absolutely sure. So we don’t know exactly how the run-up is. Except only those descriptions we have from the chronicles of our ancestors. And in those descriptions it is quite clear that there are earthquakes that people feel in the vicinity and even vibrations, there are descriptions of how the water surface near Katla vibrates before an eruption occurs,” says Kristín.

On Reykjaneshryggur, off the Reykjanes Peninsula, earthquakes have been recorded in the past 24 hours, and many of them have a magnitude of three. Four of them measured over four in magnitude and the largest was 4.4. Will there be a new eruption on the Reykjanes Peninsula? Kristín says:

“We don’t have any deformation measurements out at sea, so we know very little if any volcano there is preparing for something except just based on this seismic activity,” says Kristín, pointing out that earthquakes off the Reykjanes Peninsula are frequent. Therefore, there is no reason to necessarily be terribly worried about the development of things there.

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