Hundreds of metres under one of Iceland's largest glaciers there are signs of an imminent volcanic eruption that could be one of the most powerful the country has seen in almost a century.
Mighty Katla, with its 10km (6.2 mile) crater, has the potential to cause catastrophic flooding as it melts the frozen surface of its caldera and sends billions of gallons of water surging through Iceland's east coast and into the Atlantic Ocean.
"There has been a great deal of seismic activity," says Ford Cochran, the National Geographic's expert on Iceland.
"There have been more than 500 tremors in and around the caldera of Katla just in the last month, which suggests the motion of magma. And that certainly suggests an eruption may be imminent."
Scientists in Iceland have been closely monitoring the area since 9 July, when there appears to have been some sort of disturbance that may have been a small eruption.
Eruption 'long overdue'
Even that caused significant flooding, washing away a bridge across the country's main highway and blocking the only link to other parts of the island for several days.
"The July 9 event seems to mark the beginning of a new period of unrest for Katla, the fourth we know in the last half century," says Professor Pall Einarsson, who has been studying volcanoes for 40 years and works at the Iceland University Institute of Earth Sciences.
"The possibility that it may include a larger eruption cannot be excluded," he continues. "Katla is a very active and versatile volcano. It has a long history of large eruptions, some of which have caused considerable damage."
The last major eruption occurred in 1918 and caused such a large glacier meltdown that icebergs were swept by the resulting floods into the ocean.
The volume of water produced in a 1755 eruption equalled that of the world's largest rivers combined.
Thanks to the great works of historic literature known as the Sagas, Iceland's volcanic eruptions have been well documented for the last 1,000 years.
But comprehensive scientific measurements were not available in 1918, so volcanologists have no record of the type of seismic activity that led to that eruption.
All they know is that Katla usually erupts every 40 to 80 years, which means the next significant event is long overdue.
Click source to read FULL report with Video Link from Jane O'Brien, BBC News
Iceland trying to calm Katla volcano eruption fears in international media
The BBC and other international media reported today that an eruption of the Katla volcano in Iceland is “imminent”. Icelandic scientists and worried tourism chiefs have been quick to point out that it is impossible to say what “imminent” means: it could still be years.
“Hundreds of metres under one of Iceland’s largest glaciers there are signs of an imminent volcanic eruption that could be one of the most powerful the country has seen in almost a century.”
With these words begins an extensive and interesting article on the BBC news website — one of today’s most read stories. The article tells the tale of a massive volcano which has every chance of unleashing a truly massive flood when it erupts under the glacier – dumping billions of litres of fresh water into the North Atlantic in a very short period of time.
National Geographic’s Iceland expert, Ford Cochran tells the BBC: “There have been more than 500 tremors in and around the caldera of Katla just in the last month, which suggests the motion of magma. And that certainly suggests an eruption may be imminent.”
The article, which can be read here, says that a big Katla eruption could have serious global impacts in areas including air transport; adding that an eruption is overdue, judged on recent historical records.
While the BBC article is nearly all true, geophysicists in Iceland point out that the phrase “an eruption may be imminent” means very little. An eruption could happen next week, or Katla may continue to rumble quietly for several more years before blowing.
In the meantime the South Iceland tourism industry is adamant that people should not avoid visiting Iceland. There is always the threat of an eruption in Iceland and they very often come as a complete surprise, they argue.
When Katla erupts, the well-rehearsed emergency plan will swing into force and Iceland’s well-trained rescuers and emergency services will, as usual, ensure that people are unharmed.
A small Katla eruption would have minimal impact on air travel; while a big one could ground planes in many countries — something which Icelandic tourism officials claim as a positive: if flights are cancelled it does not matter if the tourist is travelling to Iceland or anywhere else in Europe.
Whatever “imminent” turns out to mean with hindsight, IceNews will be a conscientious and reliable source of volcano news…even if the next volcanic eruption in Iceland surprises the world media by coming from a volcano which is not called Katla.