Several weeks ago, I spoke of the threat of a volcanic eruption in Iceland. Correct headline, correct country, wrong volcano. I was speaking of news regarding Mt. Hekla and how some observations had been made that the summit was absent of snow and that there was speculation that may have indicated an impending eruption. I wonder if there is a connection. It’s purely speculation on my part and I have a very limited background in geology and vulcanology, but I wonder if perhaps magma was coming to the surface at Mt. Hekla while at the same time was rising to the surface elsewhere and the pressure was instead released with the recent eruption at the Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) volcano. Eyjafjallajokull is apparently considered to be a relatively small volcano and there is some concern due to its close proximity to the glacier of the same name. If you heat up a bunch of ice, it tends to melt and then there is a big flood. But, there is a larger concern.
Now the last time that Eyjafjallajokull erupted was in 1821 and it was boring eruption which oozed lava in a rather slow, pedestrian manner for a couple of days. Keep in mind that Iceland was settled by the Vikings in the 9th century and is known as the land of fire and ice because its covered in glaciers but is also an island of volcanoes. Islands such as Iceland are created by thermal plumes in the earth’s crust that create hot spots. Iceland and island chains like Hawaii are formed by hot spots in which a volcano emerges from the depths and and island forms. The earth’s crust moves and so the next time a plume develops, a new island forms after the old one has moved on. Unlike Hawaii which is in the tropical region, Iceland is pretty close to the Arctic Circle so its not the same kind of paradise as Hawaii. Now, one of the more active volcanoes on Iceland is the previously mentioned Hekla volcano which gained the moniker of the “Gateway to Hell” during the Middle Ages because the locals believed that souls were dragged below.
The fear now is not the current eruption, but instead that it could create a larger fissure that would be the catalyst for an eruption of nearby Mount Katla. Experts say that historical evidence suggests that when Eyjafjallajokull blows, Katla follows. But, they don’t know when. So, it could be tomorrow or years from now. But, leave it to the media to not miss the chance for a dramatic headline. NBC goes so far as to say that the volcano that is only speculated to maybe erupt at some distant time could have “world consequences.” That is because in1783, the Laki volcano erupted, causing scores to die of famine when livestock and crops were destroyed and changing weather patterns across Europe. Some historians link the climate disruption to the French Revolution and in 1784, the US had one of its coldest winters on record with the Mississippi River supposedly freezing at New Orleans.
The Katla volcano, which lies under the thick Myrdalsjokull icecap, has not erupted since 1918. Since Eyjafjallajokull hasn’t erupted since 1821, that would suggest that Katla is not necessarily terminally linked to Eyjafjallajokull. So, that would seem to me to allow for the possibility that an Eyjafjallajokull eruption does not necessarily mean a Katla eruption. Now, the idea that these two volcanoes do have some sort of apparent historical link, it makes me wonder if it is so unreasonable for me to speculate whether the Mt. Hekla observations are somehow connected. Who knows? And who knows if there would be gloom and doom for the world with a Mt. Katla eruption. No doubt, it would cause a huge flooding problem with the melting of the adjacent glacier. But, the doomsday scenario that is being trumpeted as a potential since it happened in the late 18th century is a bit misleading. You can’t necessarily take one incident in history and then say that if that event happened again, the results would be the same 240 years later. And in this case, they aren’t even talking about the same volcano. So, here’s the real lowdown: Eyjafjallajokull eruptions have been known to preceed a larger eruption of Katla but not all Katla eruptions are preceeded by a Eyjafjallajokull eruption and the Laki eruption in 1783 created global consequences and we’re talking about Mt. Katla in 2010, not 1783. Possible, not necessarily probable and certainly not worthy of scare tactic headlines.
Weather Bottom Line: Told you we wouldn’t get out of the 40′s on Monday. Official high was in low 50′s but that was just after midnight. Doesn’t count unless you are our adopted stray cat, Paintbrush. But, Snow White has a nice warm bed for him on our front porch so the falling temperatures weren’t a problem. After a chilly night, Paintbrush and the rest of us will warm up nicely to the low 60′s on Tuesday and then mid 60′s on Wednesday with the sun doing its job. Low to mid 60′s Thursday will help fuel rain and perhaps a few rumbles of thunder as another cold front swings through.