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Iceland Mag

Geology

A "secret" 2011 eruption in monster volcano Katla?

By Staff

  • Cauldron in Mýrdalsjökull glacier The giant volcano Katla is hidden beneath the ice cap of Mýrdalsjökull, largest glacier in South Iceland. Photo/Þórir Kjartansson.

It might sound strange, but scientists believe that volcanic eruptions are far more common in Iceland than previously believed. This is because eruptions which take place in sub-glacial volcanoes can go without anyone actually noticing.

Read more:  Why the constant earthquakes? Iceland is slowly being torn apart

Katla 1918 eruption

The 1918 eruption Katla has erupted on average once ever 40-80 years.  

A professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, Páll Einarsson told the local TV station Stöð 2 that recent reasearch suggests that a "secret eruption" like this took place in July 2011 in Katla. Four new cauldrons emerged in the glacier and a glacial outburst flood washed away a part of the Ring Road east of the village Vík on July 9 2011.

The last confirmed eruption in Katla took place in 1918. The volcano has produced a major eruption on average once every 40-80 years, and is therefore believed to be due for a major eruption any time soon. However, Páll now believes that Katla has actually erupted at least three times since 1918, in 1955, 1999 and 2011. 

Read more: Holuhraun eruption was actually preceded by four sub-glacial eruptions in the Bárðarbunga volcano

Múlakvísl river glacial outburst flood July 2011, Katla
Power of nature The outburst flood in Múlakvísl river on July 9 2011 washed away a ppart of the Ring Road. The plains and sand beaches of South Iceland have been created over thousands of years by floods like these. Photo/Vísir. 

Páll argues that the same week as the 2011 "secret" Katla eruption took place, seismic readings suggest that another small eruption took place in the Bárðarbunga system beneath Vatnajökull.

All in all Páll believes that six or seven small eruptions took place beneath Vatnajökull before the Bárðarbunga system finally produced the massive 2014 Holuhraun eruption.

None of these eruptions managed to breach the ice cap of the glacier and therefore went unnoticed. Countless other such "secret" eruptions could have taken place in Katla and the volcanoes of Vatnajökull over the centuries.

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