Could Another Icelandic Volcano Erupt Soon?

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As scientists
and air travellers alike keep a close eye on Iceland’s ongoing volcanic
eruption, some reports suggest that another, much bigger, volcano
could stir in the near future.

Katla is Eyjafjallajokull’s
more active neighbour, and scientists believe that there may be
a link between the two volcanoes.

This link has
not been physically proven, explains Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson a geophysicist
from the University of Iceland. A circumstantial, historical connection
"is putting people’s eyes on Katla," he says.

"We know
of four Eyjafjallajokull eruptions in the past [dating back to AD
500] and in three out of these four cases, there has been a Katla
eruption either at the same time or shortly after.

"By shortly,
I mean timescales of months to a year.

"We consider
that the probability of Katla erupting in the near future has increased
since Eyjafjallajokull went."

Kathryn Goodenough
from the British Geological Survey points out that, as yet, there
is no physical explanation for this apparent link.

"Scientists
don’t yet know what the connection is," she says.

"But we
know there are fissures running between the two volcanoes. And they’re
quite close to each other.

"They’re
also being subjected to the same tectonic forces. So the chances
are that if magma can find a pathway to rise beneath one of them,
it can find its way to rise beneath the other."

Researchers
do know that the two volcanoes have separate magma chambers, but
many suspect that these chambers are physically linked in some way,
deep beneath the surface of the Earth.

"But this
is only speculative," says Dr Goodenough. "We don’t have
geophysical evidence that makes that clear."

Overdue
eruption

Katla’s last
eruption was in 1918. It lasted for three weeks and up to a cubic
kilometre of material exploded through its vent.

"It’s
a much more active volcano than Eyjafjallajokull – it has had about
20 eruptions in the last 1,000 years, so it erupts about once every
50 years on average," says Professor Gudmundsson.

"At first
glance people would say it’s now long overdue. But the larger the
eruption, the longer the pause (in) time that follows it, and that
1918 eruption was large."

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the rest of the article

May
11, 2010

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