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Volcanic eruption doesn't mean catastrophe: Icelandic expert

12-20-2011 09:50 BJT

by Liu Yinan

REYKJAVIK, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- The next eruption of the southern Icelandic volcano Katla is unlikely to be a century catastrophe, and scientists in Iceland are even not certain about whether it will erupt in the near future, said Icelandic volcanologist Pall Einarsson on Monday.

"It is very little probability that the next Katla eruption will be similar to the Laki eruption in 1783, which is the biggest catastrophe we have ever had in the history of Iceland, making half of the livestock and 20 percent of the population die and also causing global disaster," said Professor Einarsson of Icelandic Institute of Earth Science in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Although the last big eruption of Katla was in 1918, the size of the next eruption doesn't depend on the time when it stays dormant, explained Einarsson, who has been studying volcanoes for more than 40 years.

"In fact, we may have had a small eruption of Katla this summer, on July 9, but we are still debating on whether it was a eruption, because it was too small," he added.

Meanwhile, Einarsson confirmed that the Katla has recently been under a period of unrest, and the water melting from the Myrdal glacier, covering the Katla volcano, had caused flood in southeastern Iceland, lasting three to four hours on July 9 and ruined a bridge.

"It had been relatively quiet before July 9, but after that possible eruption, the earthquakes increased, so we have definitely an agitated state of the volcano, so this is the time we have to be extra cautious about Katla," said Einarsson.

According to him, the increasing melting water and earthquakes can be signs of the active state of the volcano, which means " something is cooking," but whether it is going to be a big eruption in the near future still remains uncertain.

"The last time this happened was in 1999, it also started with a small eruption, but following that, there were four or five years that the Katla volcano was agitated, and then it got quiet again without a big eruption," explained Einarsson, adding that similar situations also happened both in 1976 and 1967.

"We should try to stay away from the alarmist's view of the volcanoes, we have about 30 active volcanoes in Iceland and we have eruptions every two or three years, so when we say there is going to be a eruption, that does not mean there is going to be a catastrophe," stressed Einarsson.

"We have several volcanoes that are likely to erupt in the next few years, but that does not mean this is big news, it's just like saying that there is going to be an automobile accident tomorrow," he added.

As one of the most four active volcanoes in Iceland, the Katla volcano system is even larger than the Eyjafjalla glacier volcano, which erupted in April 2010, shooting smoke and ash thousands of meters into the air, crippling air travel across Europe and causing chaos all over the world.

But Einarsson claimed that "A lot of news reports misunderstand this. They think the Eyjafjalla eruption was a small eruption, which was very damaging, and Katla is much bigger, so it's a catastrophe. This is not true."

According to him, the impact of volcano eruption is not only based on the size of eruption, but also depends on many other factors like the weather during the eruption and the chemical composition of the product.

"The Grimsvotn volcano's eruption, which happened this spring, is ten times bigger than the Eyjafjalla glacier volcano's eruption last year, but it only had a small effect," said Einarsson.

He explained that the Grimsvotn's eruption only lasted a week, and the weather was favorable so it blew the ash away from Europe, and the chemical composition of the product is basaltic, which means the ash was not fine and fell down in a short time.

"I guess the eruption of Eyjafjalla glacier volcano opened people's eyes that this can have a global effect on everybody's daily life. I think that is the first time that this was demonstrated, but that doesn't mean every eruption has that effect, " said Einarsson.

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Editor:Zhang Hao |Source: Xinhua

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