Katla volcano in Iceland – a sleeping beast?

Do you know about Katla volcano? In South Iceland, just north of Vík, lies one of Iceland’s largest volcanoes; Katla (in English: Kettle). It’s covered by a thick glacier, called Mýrdalsjökull, which makes Katla a dangerous volcano.

Katla volcano in Iceland

What is the deal with Katla volcano?

Katla is considered a very active volcano and normally erupts every 13-95 years. The last confirmed major eruption was in 1918, now do the math. Yes, it’s been 99 years. There have been suspected minor eruptions under the ice cap, ones that haven’t broken through and not caused a lot of flooding. Scientists don’t like to use the word “overdue” since volcanology isn’t an exact science (yet), and volcanoes are anything but predictable! So even if it’s been a while since the last major eruption, it’s still considered normal.

And the deal is, well, you remember the Eyjafjallajökull eruption? A major eruption in Katla volcano could be a lot bigger, and send a huge ash cloud over Europe. The eruption in 1918 was five times (yes) the size of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption that halted air traffic all over the world.

The caldera is 10-kilometer-wide, and since a glacier covers it, it can cause immense flooding, affecting Vík and other areas. We’re not talking a small flood either. In 1980, the South Coast of Iceland was extended by no less than 5 kilometers. So, it’s not like a river flowing over its banks. It’s catastrophic.

For the past few years, there has been more earthquake activity in Katla, and some warning signs that tell us that the volcano should be closely monitored, which it certainly is.

Do you need to be concerned?

Katla volcano in Iceland

Not really, not right now. If Katla decides to erupt, there will be earthquake activity, for days even so that the danger zone will be closed off and people evacuated. Residents of Vík and neighboring areas are trained for routine evacuation, and a warning will be sent to all mobile phones in the area. An elaborate plan is in place by authorities for this situation, so you don’t need to be concerned.

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