Katla volcano in Iceland remains dormant

A glacial flood affected South Iceland last night, likely caused by draining of geothermal melt water from underneath the east side of the Myrdalsjokull glacier.

Scientists have been speculating that the glacial outburst may have been caused by a very small volcanic eruption; but no visual or seismic evidence to confirm that theory has yet come to light.

The flood peaked last night and engineers are already working on repairing damage to local roads. The sudden outburst knocked out a bridge on the Route 1 highway, leaving the road closed. Icelandic interior minister, Ogmundur Jonasson told reporters that fixing the road is his top priority and the Icelandic Roads Administration is already working to build a temporary replacement bridge. It is hoped the road will open again in the coming weeks.

A spate of small earthquakes under the glacier is now subsiding and seismic activity was not recorded in mainland Scandinavia; unlike the three most recent eruptions in Fimmvorduhals, Eyjafjallajokull and Grimsvotn. This indicates that the eruption under the Myrdalsjokull glacier is either extremely small or not actually happening at all.

Glacial outbursts caused by geothermal melt water are common in South Iceland. As the Katla volcano lies partly under Myrdalsjokull, all activity in the area is closely monitored and naturally generates international attention.

“This is a very similar occurrence to June 1955. Then glacial outbursts came from two craters in the 1918 volcano site and lasted for ten hours. That was a very intense flood,” says seismologist Bryndis Brandsdottir. She told RUV that last night’s earthquakes were not particularly unusual.

“We would expect large-scale seismic activity before a Katla eruption and this activity the Met Office was tracking last night was small; it was not unusual in any way,” Brandsdottir said.

Residents of a small area near the glacier have been evacuated to the town of Kirkjubaejarklaustur. Nobody was hurt in the flood.

(Photo: Myrdalsjokull // Wikimedia)

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