Misleading information on Katla eruption says Iceland Met Office

Mýrdalsjökull - Katla.

Mýrdalsjökull - Katla. mbl.is/Sigurður Bogi Sævarsson

The Iceland Met Office has issued a statement to counteract what they feel are misleading reports on volcanic activity in Katla. Numerous tourists have called the office to ask whether it's safe to fly to Iceland. Many have also called to find out whether their families are safe in Iceland. 

As an example, the Crawley News wrote today that a Katla eruption could disrupt flights to and from Gatwick, London citing the effect that the Eyjafjallajökull eruption had in 2010. 

The Iceland Met Office has therefore seen reason to issue a summary about the recent increase in earthquake activity in Katla. 

"We are aware of inaccurate news in recent days about seismic unrest at Katla volcano, Iceland. To avoid any confusion, we would like to reiterate the current status of Katla."

"Media interest in Iceland's volcanoes has remained high since the Eyjafjallajökull eruption of 2010, hence the summary is intended as an official monitoring statement, in case of diverging media reports."

"Since mid-June, earthquake activity within the caldera of the ice-covered Katla volcano has increased above background levels. More than 100 shallow-seated earthquakes have been detected in Katla caldera since 1 June 2016, which is almost four times the monthly average compared to previous years. Earthquakes occurred mainly in bursts ranging from minutes to hours, often with 20 events or more. The two largest earthquakes since the unrest began occurred on 26 July at 03:42 and 03:50 UTC, respectively, both with a magnitude of Mw3.2.

Such summertime increases in seismicity are common at Katla and the ongoing activity within the caldera is similar to summertime unrest observed in 2012 and 2014. Often this increased seismicity occurred in association with drainage of meltwater from several known ice-cauldrons, formed due to hydrothermal activity, as observed almost annually. Since late June 2016 there have been three small floods in Múlakvísl river, an outlet from Mýrdalsjökull, in addition to a flood from the Entujökull glacier. Presently, water-level and electrical conductivity measurements at the bridge over Múlakvísl show increased drainage of geothermal meltwater from Mýrdalsjökull - the ice-cap overlying Katla. We have received several reports throughout the summer of a hydrogen sulphide stench from glacial rivers around Myrdalsjökull.

Around Katla we are not detecting signs of increased ground deformation or bursts of seismic tremor, which are both signals that might indicate movement of magma. We continue to monitor Katla closely and will issue updates on IMO‘s web-site if the situation intensifies. Our assessment is that the volcano is in a period of summertime unrest and it does not show signs of impending eruption, although we cannot rule-out a sudden escalation in seismicity in connection with a hazardous flood."


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