The Sciences

Here comes Katla?

Cosmic VarianceBy John ConwayJul 20, 2010 8:43 PM

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Being kind of a volcano/earthquake geek, I regularly check in on the recent California earthquake records, the Kilauea activity, and, in the past couple months since the Eyjafjallajokull, the earthquake activity near it that might presage an eruption of Eyja's big sister, Katla. Historically, eruptions of Eyjafjallajokull are followed by eruptions of Katla, which are an order of magnitude larger. The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull disrupted air travel in Europe for weeks. It's interesting to consider what a big volcano Katla might do. There is also the fact that Katla erupts every 40-80 years and hasn't erupted since 1918, making this a potentially bigger buildup to an eruption. Some of the Katla eruptions in the past have gone on for months. Since I have been watching, the number of earthquakes near Katla has been small, with a few periods of a dozen or so within a 24 hour period. Almost every time I have looked it's been very quiet, perhaps one or two a day. I was away the previous two weeks, and apparently missed a day with 11 earthquakes on July 10. I checked again today, and I got the map below, with over a dozen earthquakes! Now, clearly, these are all small earthquakes, with magnitude near 1, and there are no reports of steam or ash as yet. I bet it's coming, though, fairly soon. The president of Iceland does, too.

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