Icelandic Authorities Put Katla Volcano on Watch After Tremors

Iceland’s Civil Protection Department has increased its monitoring of the North Atlantic island’s largest volcano, Katla, following increased seismic activity in the surrounding area, according to a statement on its Web Site.

“We can’t rule out that” an eruption is under way, Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, a geologist at the Institute of Earth Science with the University of Iceland, told national broadcaster RUV. “It’s possible that magma is gathering underneath the mountain.”

Gudmundsson said it was too early to say exactly what was happening at the volcano. Three earthquakes were measured in the Katla area after 7 p.m. local time, according to Iceland’s Meteorological Office. The largest quake was about 2.0 on the Richter scale, the Met Office said.

Katla had two small eruptions in 1955 and 1999, neither of which managed to break the ice covering its 10 kilometer-wide (6 mile) caldera. The last major eruption in Katla began in 1918, when ash explosions from the crater didn’t subside for more than five weeks.

Ash from Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano forced flight cancelations in Scotland, northern England and Germany in May. An eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April last year caused the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights on concern glass-like particles formed from lava might melt in aircraft engines and clog turbines. Historically, Eyjafjallajokull has been known to erupt one to two years prior to Katla.

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