Iceland Volcano Stirs

Those Icelandic volcanoes might know that we’re talking about them. On Tuesday, the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) raised the warning for one volcano, Hekla, to the “level of uncertainty” that bears watching because of an increase in micro-earthquake activity.

At the time of writing, the largest earthquake measured was still a very mild one scoring less than three on the Richter scale, and the IMO stressed that there is no sign that the volcano is about to erupt immediately.

A report published this month on the destructive eruption in April 2010 of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökul disappointed scientists, who learned that the rainfall of ash that fertilized the oceans after the storm wasn’t much help in the fight against global climate change. Some people had theorized that a bloom of plankton resulting from the volcano could help take carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere, but it didn’t work out that way.

Apparently, there’s just not much upside to a volcanic eruption. When a German volcano stirred in early 2012, European observers noted that the rainfall of ash could have devastating consequences, covering cities from London to Berlin in billions of tons of the hot, dirty particles.

Fortunately, that volcano simmered down harmlessly, and we can hope for the same thing from Hekla. The Icelandic tourist commission warned that this volcano has erupted 20 times since Iceland was settled, the most of any of the island nation’s volcanoes.

However, in 7,000 years, Hekla has only experienced five of what they call “big fissure eruptions” covering up to 80 percent of the nation — and the last such disaster was about 2,800 years ago, long before the Norse settlers arrived around the ninth century.

With any luck, this particular Icelandic volcano will simply grumble a little and then go away.

[Iceland volcano photos courtesy Michi S. and Flickr]