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Your holiday almost got cancelled yesterday. It still might.

Jón Ragnarsson’s photo. Fimmvörðuháls eruption in Iceland in 2010.

THE ERUPTION OF Iceland’s volcano Eyjafjallajökull (the one world didn’t seem to be able to pronounce) in 2010 stopped half of Europe’s flight traffic. Iceland’s president Ólafur Ragnar Grímson later warned Europe about Katla, one of Iceland’s most powerful volcanoes, with these words: “The time for Katla to erupt is coming close“.

Well he might be right on that. Yesterday, Katla – which is in fact one of the world’s most powerful volcanoes and known locally as being the most dangerous volcano in Iceland – let its residents know it was still there.

A sudden glacial flooding in the Múlakvísl and Jökulsá rivers originating from Katla occurred yesterday. Sulphur pollution that rises from the glacial flood can be dangerous – if exposed to people it can cause them to lose consciousness.

The government declared an “uncertainty level” for the Katla volcano and people were advised to stay away and ‘keep their cellphone very close’.

Glacial floods like this can be caused by various factors, such as eruptions, rising lava, steam vents or newly opened hot springs. All of these can cause glacial ice to quickly melt, accumulate under the glacier and then release – in this case, the effects seemed only to be flooding.

Fortunately, there are currently no signs of an impending eruption at Katla.

However, Katla has been showing signs of unrest since 1999. Geologists predict it will erupt in the near future. It is being closely monitored. An eruption could have ramifications for both the locals and the wider international community.

There’s no smoke on the horizon yet, but there might well be soon. Watch this space, and the skies, for signs of Katla’s might.

Words: Svanlaug Arnadottir

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