Is Iceland's Katla Volcano About To Erupt And Disrupt European Flights? Not Likely

Chris York
Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupting in 2010.

Headlines over the weekend have been warning of an “IMMINENT” volcanic eruption in Iceland on a “devastating scale” that will disrupt air travel and “dwarf the devastating 2010 ash cloud”.

The good news is, they’re wrong, so there is no need to worry about your flights being cancelled for now.

The fear has been borne out of study published last week that looked at CO2 emissions emanating from the Katla volcano.

It found levels of the greenhouse gas were much higher than previously thought and suggest the existing estimates of total CO2 emissions from volcanoes world-wide may be too low.

The total emissions from volcanoes would still remain a small fraction (about 2%) of CO2 emissions from human activities.

It made no predictions about an eruption.

In a Facebook post, the Institute of Earth Sciences explained: 

“There seems to be some misunderstanding in the media on the meaning of these important results. They should not be taken as a prediction of an eruption in Katla in the near future. And they do not predict the size and magnitude of the next eruption.

“What this pioneering study shows is the large flux of CO2 and that this flux is observed in both 2016 and 2017. For how long this flux has persisted is not known.”

An increase in CO2 from a volcano can be a sign of an imminent eruption but this is not what the report found – it found levels were larger than previously thought, but they could have been at these levels for years.

The cone of Katla is beneath a glacier, meaning measuring in the past has been difficult, with the latest study adapting airborne monitors.

Dr Evgenia Ilyinskaya, one of the report’s authors, highlighted “scaremongering” articles in a Twitter thread.

She pointed out she had “said explicitly” that scientists were “in no position to say whether or not Katla Volcano is ready to erupt and that air traffic disruption in case of an eruption is unlikely to be as serious as in 2010”.

She added: “You are lying to your readers.”

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