Scientists have warned of an imminent volcanic eruption in Iceland. The Times reported that the 1,512-meter-tall Katla volcano shows signs it is about to erupt, and the explosion could dwarf the 2010 explosion of the neighboring Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
The eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eight years ago produced a giant ash cloud that disrupted air travel across the globe. The ash cloud quickly spread across Europe, forcing the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights.
Now, scientists warn that nearby Katla shows signs it is going to blow up for the first time since 1918. They said that the volcano is churning out carbon dioxide that indicates the magma chambers below the surface are filling up. They believe that the huge amount of gas that Katla emits is a precursor to a large explosion.
In a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on Sept. 17, Evgenia Ilyinskaya, from the University of Leeds in the UK, and colleagues reported that Katla was spewing between 12 and 24 kilotons of carbon dioxide every day, which makes it one of the largest volcanic sources of carbon dioxide on the planet.
Katla has been undergoing significant unrest over recent decades, but using high-precision measuring equipment, the researchers concluded that the amount of gas that the volcano releases is higher than previous estimates.
“Katla’s sustained CO2 flux, 12‐24 kt/d, is up to an order of magnitude greater than previous estimates of total CO2 release from Iceland’s natural sources,” Ilyinskaya and colleagues wrote in their study.
Ilyinskaya said that the current carbon dioxide levels suggested that an eruption is imminent since there must be a magma buildup to release this amount of gas.
She said that in the case of volcanoes in Alaska and Hawaii, carbon dioxide emissions tend to increase weeks or years before an eruption.
Some experts, however, think that there is no way to know if Katla’s emissions mean that the volcano is about to erupt. University of Iceland geophysics professor Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson said that there is no existing data that can show the levels of emission that are normal for the volcano.
“Even more unclear is whether these massive emissions are directly connected to an underground magma chamber, or what [Katla’s] connection to the magma chamber in the volcano is,” he said, as reported by Iceland Review.
Still, Ilyinskaya thinks that there needs to be a close eye on Katla.
“She isn’t just doing nothing, and these findings confirm that there is something going on,” Ilyinskaya said.