Friday, February 24, 2012

Rumblings in Iceland, (Katla sleeps restlessly)

The problem of dealing with Geological time and having events that occur in very short intervals thereof, is that for those of us on a faster life schedule, “almost instantly” can still be a period of years.

That thought has struck me quite frequently as, over the past year, I have watched the earthquakes that are happening around the Myrdalsjokyll glacier in Iceland, with the Katla volcano rumbling beneath it. I first noted how the earthquakes in the region were focusing down into the caldera of the volcano last May. Since then I reported occasionally as the intensity of the underlying earthquakes increased in intensity up to levels above 3.0, and started to align along possible fissures that might lead from the magma chambers up to the surface.

In the end the volcano did not seriously erupt, but nor did the patterns change that much, and I have kept an eye on the region over the months since. It is worth noting that the pattern of quakes continues to focus in the region of Katla, and that while they vary in intensity and frequency (some days there may only be one or two quakes) that they are still ongoing.

Pattern of Earthquakes in Iceland in the last 24-hours (Icelandic Met Office )

If one clicks on the map at the site over the clump of quakes at the bottom (those on the right at the base of the peninsula are caused by water injection from the geothermal program in Iceland) then one gets this picture:

Quakes in the Katla region of Iceland in the last 24-hours (Icelandic Met Office)

This is about as dispersed a pattern as there has been over the last few months in the region. Eyjafjallajokull was the volcano that erupted two years ago, and brought some disruption to Europe. Katla will likely go at a somewhat greater scale, and likely quite soon – in geological time. For those with shorter attention spans it remains hard to tell whether that will be in 6 months, or 6 years. We’ll just have to keep watching.


  1. In the description for your first earthquake map, I think I see the group described as being at "the base of the peninsula". But then I become confused when you say that this group is "on the right"? Could you have meant to say "on the left"? And here I'm assuming that "left" indicates the same map direction as "west" (given a typical NSWE map orientation).

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