Iceland’s Katla Volcano Eruption Imminent: Could Surpass Last Year’s Eruption

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October 14, 2011 2:16 PM EST

Iceland's Katla Volcano, which has a magma chamber that is ten times the size of Eyjafjallajokull, is showing signs of an imminent eruption.

Experts are saying that should Katla erupt, the consequences could be disastrous for Europe as it could spew an ash cloud that will turn day into night. In comparison to last year's Eyjafjallajokull's eruption which grounded planes last year and cost the aviation industry nearly $2 billion dollars, Katla's could wreak havoc across Europe. The last time Katla erupted in 1918 it spewed ash for more than a month, killed off livestock and flooded surrounding farmlands from the melted ice-sheet that covered the volcano.

Now, scientists have detected small earthquakes around Katla and seismologists are warning the population to brace for the eruption. The earthquakes have been steadily growing in strength, just last week a magnitude 4 earthquake was detected. Katla usually has a large eruption twice in a century. It is long overdue for another one, seismologists say.

"It is definitely showing signs of restlessness," said Pall Einarsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland.

Government officials already have evacuation procedures in place for communities near Katla but should the volcano erupt, people living in those areas will only have an hour to escape before the volcano erupts.

The aviation industry meanwhile remains optimistic that an eruption wouldn't put airlines out of business.

"It would take a closure greater than last May's to put people out of business," said David Henderson, spokesman for the Brussels-based Association of European Airlines.

 "Everything depends on the magnitude of the eruption."

Ordinary Icelanders remain unruffled about any imminent eruption. Volcanoes have done more good than harm in Iceland being the source of cheap geothermal energy that citizens use every day. Until Katla decides to blow, Iceland is going to play a waiting game with nature's fieriest phenomenon.

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