As European air travel returns to normal and as passengers slowly begin making their way home, we may not have heard the last about the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull yet. Scientists have discovered disturbing evidence that the seismic activity from Eyjafjallajokull may be activating a nearby volcano, Katla. If this second volcano erupts, the world could be in for a whole new round of travel delays, disrupted lives, and economic setbacks.
Today the Eyjafjallajokull volcano looks peaceful compared to its violent appearance just days ago. Scientists believe that its activity is decreasing and is now idling at about 80% of its earlier strength. Eyjafjallajokull does not stand alone, however, as it is connected by magma channels to a larger crater, Katla, located just 12 miles away.
Volcano Katla is located about half a kilometer below an Icelandic glacier called Myrdalsjokull. Scientists say that the large amount of ice atop the volcano is a recipe for ash clouds of greater magnitude than seen from the Icelandic volcano eruption that began last week.
Katla has been dormant for decades, but since the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull , it has seen a 200% increase in activity. Katla last erupted in tandem with Eyjafjallajokull in an 1821 blast, a pattern scientists say may recur now. Katla last erupted on its own in 1921 and experts say that the volcano is presently overdue for another eruption. Katla is a much larger volcano, so any eruption there could be substantially more devastating than that of Eyjafjallajokull. Many residents near the volcano are convinced that it will erupt within the next seven days, although they admittedly do not have scientific evidence to back their suppositions.
Residents near the Katla volcano have been readying themselves to evacuate should the new activity around Katla develop into a full scale eruption. Because the intense heat from such an event would result in a rush of water from melting ice, residents in the town of Vik would have just a couple hours to evacuate to safety. Other residents in the area are said to have as little as twenty minutes to flee to safety.
If anything like the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, the repercussions of another Icelandic volcano eruption will likely resonate throughout the entire region and the world. Airlines, governments, businesses, and private travelers, already reeling, fear that more ash cloud delays would wreak even more havoc upon the European economy, even as it struggles to return to normalcy. Although official estimates of the economic cost of the Eyjafjallajokull eruption have not yet been publicized, the airline industry alone is said to have lost upwards of $200 million per day during the crisis.