Second, more powerful Icelandic volcano likely to explode soon

Despite grounding 100,000 flights across Europe, battering a beleaguered airline industry, stranding hundreds of thousands of travellers, disrupting schools and businesses, and giving homes under flight paths their first peace and quiet in decades, the current volcano eruption may be only a teaser of chaos to come.

A far bigger Icelandic volcano, Katla, is tipped to erupt in the coming months, potentially causing much more savage and sustained disruption to industry and society. Eyjafjallajokull erupted on 14 April, forcing European governments to impose a no-fly zone. Each time Eyjafjallajokull has erupted in the past 2,000 years – in 920, in 1612 and between 1821 and 1823 – Katla has exploded within six months.

"I certainly wouldn't be surprised if Katla erupted within the next year, but how much it affects Britain and northern Europe depends on what happens with the winds at the time," the volcanologist Bill McGuire told The Independent.

Professor McGuire, who sits on the Government's Cobra emergency committee, pointed out that Katla was 10 times bigger than Eyjafjallajokull. It also has a much bigger ice cap, and it is the mixture of melting cold water and lava that causes explosions and for ash to shoot to high altitudes.

Professor McGuire, a professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, suggested airlines should draw up contingency plans for coping with Katla, which he said had been known about for a long time – but he added that there was probably not much that could be done.

His concern was shared by Jon Davidson, a professor of Earth sciences at Durham University, who remarked that because Katla has invariably exploded into life after Eyjafjallajokull has done so, the aviation industry should be "less surprised" by its potential impact.

Iceland's President, Olafur Grimsson, indicated that Europe, and the world, would have to wake up to the risk posed by Katla. He told the BBC's Newsnight: "Unfortunately, what we have seen in the past few years could only be a beginning of an experience which might be repeated throughout the 21st century.

"Because the history of these volcanoes in my country shows that they will erupt regularly, and the time for Katla to erupt is coming close. It's much bigger. What we have seen now is a small rehearsal of what would happen, I don't say if, but when Katla will erupt, because it usually erupts [on a large scale] every century and the last [major] one was in 1918."

The President said Iceland had been "waiting for that eruption" for some years, and had made preparations for rescue and emergency services. "So I think it is high time for European governments and airline authorities across the globe to start planning for the eventual Katla eruption," he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administrator - London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administra...

Recruitment Genius: .NET Web Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£14616 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading specialist in Electronic Ci...

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003