30 August 2016: If Iceland’s mighty Katla volcano soon erupts, as seismic activity indicates it may, how sharp an effect could it have on global temperatures, food production and ultimately on peace in these already unstable economic and political times?
Quake-hit Iceland volcano Katla shows strengthening signs of eruption
Fri., 02 Sep. 2011, by ClickGreen staff.
Iceland’s massive Katla volcano is showing increasing signs of a possible eruption following an intense week of earthquakes and tremors.
The feared volcano was struck by a magnitude 3.2 earthquake last night as experts believe magma is slowly filling inside the mountain, giving rise to fears the volcano could soon erupt. The latest quake follows a week of increasing activity with official reports of harmonic tremors and earthquake swarms.
Observers have been closely watching Katla since July when the volcano showed the first signs of increased activity.
Last weekend, the Icelandic Met Office confirmed two swarms of earthquakes in Katla and on Wednesday night, a harmonic tremor – a potential indicator to an eruption – was detected. Last night’s stronger earthquake was picked up in the volcano’s caldera – its magma chamber. Katla, which has not experienced a significant eruption for 93 years, is the second largest volcano on Iceland and its eruption will be felt across Europe.
Last year, the country’s president Ólafur Grímsson warned “the time for Katla to erupt is coming close, Iceland has prepared and it is high time for European governments and airline authorities all over Europe and the world to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption”.
It is believed Katla, named after a vindictive troll of Viking folklore, has the potential to be much stronger and disruptive than the last two Icelandic volcanic eruptions that caused chaos across Europe’s air space, grounding flights and closing airports.
Katla is much larger than its neighbouring Eyjafjallajokull – which erupted last year – with a magma chamber about 10 times the size. Volcanologists warn that if Katla does erupt, the combination of the magma and the large ice sheet covering the volcano could lead to explosive activity and an ash plume for weeks, if not months.
Will Iceland’s Katla Volcano Blow Next?
May 8, 2010, modernsurvivalblog.com
Each time following an eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano, it’s mighty neighbor, Katla, has erupted shortly afterward. Eyjafjallajokull and Katla are separated by 27 km (17 mi) and are thought to have interconnecting magma channels. Eyjafjallajokull erupted on April 14, 2010.
Katla (named after an Icelandic witch) is known to have erupted 16 times since 930, the last time during 1918. Since then, Katla has been quiet for the longest duration on record. It is overdue, and now that it’s little sister Eyjafjallajokull has erupted, it’s just a matter of time.
Katla itself is 30 km (19 mi) in diameter reaching a height of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet), while the 10 km (6 mi) crater of the volcano lies up to 500 meters (1,600 feet) beneath the Myrdalsjokull glacier on the southern edge of Iceland. Iceland sits directly on top of a split in the earth’s crust of two tectonic plates on the Mid-Atlantic ridge and is a hot spot for volcanic activity with 35 volcanoes around the island.
An eruption of Katla would likely be 10 times stronger than the recent eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and could be disastrous to Iceland with raging floods from the melting Myrdalsjokull glacier, immense depths of volcanic ash, and climate change to regions of the world.
If the eruption is long enough and high enough, ash could be blasted 20 km (12 mi) into the stratosphere and circle the globe blotting out part of the sun from penetrating to earth, and reduce temperatures worldwide. The big question of course is how big would the eruption be and to what extent the global climate change.
We know that when Katla erupted in 1700, the Mississippi River froze just north of New Orleans for example. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991 for 2 days, it dropped temperatures 4 degrees worldwide for a year. Katla on average erupts for 50 days, although the cumulative severity over that time period depends on the force of the eruptions lifting ash high into the atmosphere. We won’t know until it happens.
Although the magnitude of disaster would not be that of a super volcano such as Wyoming’s Yellowstone, the potential is there for a global catastrophe from a worldwide extended deep freeze. Huge crop failures would translate to starvation for some and very high food prices for others. A ripple effect would occur through the already teetering economies of the world.
Since the potential exists for a major Katla eruption, we should prepare ourselves as best we can, knowing that modern society would be disrupted from a disaster of this magnitude (just look at what happened to worldwide air travel and the economic impact from the small eruption of Eyjafjallajokull).
Other observations regarding Icelandic volcanic eruptions:
Past Katla eruptions have caused floods the size of the Amazon and sent boulders as big as houses tumbling down valleys and roads. The last major eruption took place in 1918. Floods followed in as little as an hour.
Iceland’s Laki volcano erupted in 1783, freeing gases that turned into smog. The smog floated across the Jet Stream, changing weather patterns. Many died from gas poisoning in the British Isles. Crop production fell in western Europe. Famine spread. Some even linked the eruption, which helped fuel famine, to the French Revolution. Painters in the 18th century illustrated fiery sunsets in their works.
The winter of 1784 was also one of the longest and coldest on record in North America. New England reported a record stretch of below-zero temperatures and New Jersey reported record snow accumulation. The Mississippi River also reportedly froze in New Orleans.
The Laki volcanic fissure erupted over a eight month period between June 1783 and February 1784. Within Iceland, the lava and poisonous clouds of gas ushered in a time known as the “Mist Hardships”: farmland was ruined, livestock died in vast numbers, and the resultant famine killed almost a quarter of the population.
The eruption’s impact wasn’t confined to Iceland alone. Dust and sulfur particles thrown up by the explosion were carried as a haze across Northern Europe, clouding the skies in Norway, the Netherlands, the British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. In conjunction with another volcanic eruption and an unusually strong El Nino weather pattern, the Laki eruption is thought to have contributed to extreme weather across Europe for the next several years.
Describing the summer of 1783 in his classic Natural History of Selborne, British naturalist Gilbert White wrote it was “an amazing and portentous one … the peculiar haze, or smokey fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man” [The Guardian]. Gilbert wrote that the haze blanked out the sun at midday, that it was “particularly lurid and blood-colored at rising and setting,” and that the heat was so intense that “butcher’s meat could hardly be eaten on the same day after it was killed.” This bizarre summer was followed by an usually harsh winter, historians say. Environmental historians have also pointed to the disruption caused to the economies of northern Europe, where food poverty was a major factor in the build-up to the French revolution of 1789 [The Guardian].
The Laki volcanic fissure in southern Iceland erupted over an eight-month period from 8 June 1783 to February 1784, spewing lava and poisonous gases that devastated the island’s agriculture, killing much of the livestock. It is estimated that perhapsa quarter of Iceland’s population died through the ensuing famine.
Then, as now, there were more wide-ranging impacts. In Norway, the Netherlands, the British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, in North America and even Egypt, the Laki eruption had its consequences, as the haze of dust and sulphur particles thrown up by the volcano was carried over much of the northern hemisphere.
Ships moored up in many ports, effectively fogbound. Crops were affected as the fall-out from the continuing eruption coincided with an abnormally hot summer. A clergyman, the Rev Sir John Cullum, wrote to the Royal Society that barley crops “became brown and withered … as did the leaves of the oats; the rye had the appearance of being mildewed”.
The British naturalist Gilbert White described that summer in his classic Natural History of Selborne as “an amazing and portentous one … the peculiar haze, or smokey fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man.
“The sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and shed a rust-coloured ferruginous light on the ground, and floors of rooms; but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting. At the same time the heat was so intense that butchers’ meat could hardly be eaten on the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic … the country people began to look with a superstitious awe, at the red, louring aspect of the sun.”
Across the Atlantic, Benjamin Franklin wrote of “a constant fog over all Europe, and a great part of North America”.
The disruption to weather patterns meant the ensuing winter was unusually harsh, with consequent spring flooding claiming more lives. In America the Mississippi reportedly froze at New Orleans.
The eruption is now thought to have disrupted the Asian monsoon cycle, prompting famine in Egypt. Environmental historians have also pointed to the disruption caused to the economies of northern Europe, where food poverty was a major factor in the build-up to the French revolution of 1789.