Icelandic Met Office says Katla not near eruption

  • Icelandic Meteorological Office says  Katla is not eruption.
  • The volcano is believed to be in a period of summer unrest.

The Icelandic Meteorological Office has attempted to ease concerns that Katla is about to erupt.

Media had been reporting that a volcanic eruption of Katla could potentially occur disrupting air traffic across Europe; however, the IMO report states that they are not detecting signs of increased ground deformation or bursts of seismic tremor, which are both signals that might indicate movement of magma,” contradicting media indications that an eruption is likely.

The Meteorological Office say any changes in activity will be posted on their website and said that the volcano is in a period of summer unrest and not near an imminent eruption: “We are aware of inaccurate news in recent days about seismic unrest at Katla volcano, Iceland. To avoid any confusion, we would like to reiterate the current status of Katla. Media interest in Iceland’s volcanoes has remained high since the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010, hence the summary is intended as an official monitoring statement, in case of diverging media reports.”

“Since mid-June, earthquake activity within the caldera of the ice-covered Katla volcano has increased above background levels. More than 100 shallow-seated earthquakes have been detected in Katla caldera since 1 June 2016, which is almost four times the monthly average compared to previous years. Earthquakes occurred mainly in bursts ranging from minutes to hours, often with 20 events or more. The two largest earthquakes since the unrest began occurred on 26 July at 03:42 and 03:50 UTC, respectively, both with a magnitude of Mw3.2.

Such summertime increases in seismicity are common at Katla and the ongoing activity within the caldera is similar to summertime unrest observed in 2012 and 2014. Often this increased seismicity occurred in association with drainage of meltwater from several known ice-cauldrons, formed due to hydrothermal activity, as observed almost annually. Since late June 2016 there have been three small floods in Múlakvísl river, an outlet from Mýrdalsjökull, in addition to a flood from the Entujökull glacier. Presently, water-level and electrical conductivity measurements at the bridge over Múlakvísl show increased drainage of geothermal meltwater from Mýrdalsjökull – the ice-cap overlying Katla. We have received several reports throughout the summer of a hydrogen sulphide stench from glacial rivers around Myrdalsjökull.

Around Katla we are not detecting signs of increased ground deformation or bursts of seismic tremor, which are both signals that might indicate movement of magma. We continue to monitor Katla closely and will issue updates on IMO‘s website if the situation intensifies. Our assessment is that the volcano is in a period of summertime unrest and it does not show signs of impending eruption, although we cannot rule-out a sudden escalation in seismicity in connection with a hazardous flood.”

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Maria Sinnott

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