New media hype over Katla volcano

There apparently is a new media hype over Katla volcano in the British press. This time around it is from BBC News. The news in question claims that a eruption in Katla volcano is going to have a global impact. This is nothing but a exaggeration in my view. While a eruption in Katla volcano might be big, there effects are mostly localized to Iceland. This was clear during the Grímsfjall volcano eruption in May of 2011. Where the global effect was close to zero, there where some flight disruptions. But they where not something major like did happen during Eyjafjalljökull volcano eruption. So the media is overestimating the effects of eruption in Katla volcano. To what end I do not know. But it sure annoyed me, and the scientists that monitor volcanoes in Iceland.

It is also important fact that Katla volcano did have an eruption this year. It took place on 8 and 9th July, 2011. With a smaller eruption on the 10th of July, 2011. This eruption was however a small one and did only melt the glacier, as it was not strong enough to break trough the ice. My coverage of those events can be found here (the whole timeline of events can be viewed here).

In terms of effects of a large eruption in Katla volcano. One thing is clear. It is mostly going to local to Iceland, it might disrupt flights in Europe of the wind systems are unfavorable. Both over mainland Europe or for transatlantic flights. But transatlantic flight can in most case route around the ash clod if it they need to. But the claim for global effects are just exaggeration and nothing else.

The BBC News hype.

New Icelandic volcano eruption could have global impact

41 Replies to “New media hype over Katla volcano”

  1. I am sad that the BBC has jumped on the “Doommongering” band wagon. At one time you could rely on the BBC for accurate recording.
    This article is bad in so many ways. Firstly it is inaccurate. Secondly the writer obviously read comments on these volcano blogs AFTER he wrote the piece, he should have read up on his facts FIRST
    see my post of
    Diana Barnes says:
    December 2, 2011 at 20:27. Here I mentioned one error where it was stated that Katla was part of the Laki system. This has now been changed to “…Part of a volcanic zone that includes Laki…”
    The National Geographic “Icelandic Expert” must have bad map reading skills and it is a wonder he ever made it out of Iceland alive during his one or possibly two visits to the country. Nobody yet has commented on this line in the report. Talking about an eruption of Katla he says it will
    “………sends billions of gallons of water surging through Iceland’s east coast and into the Atlantic Ocean.”
    Errrrrmmm! East Coast? He hasn’t studied the IMO hydrology maps.
    In the original he mentioned the glaciers were due to Iceland’s Altitude I made a comment elsewhere about this and now Altitude has been changed to Latitude.
    I could rant on. I could offer Jon’s services to be National Geographic’s Volcanic expert for this present one certainly is not!
    Reading and Googling between the lines, Ford Cochran, who is director of programming, is just doing a sales pitch for National Geographic’s documentary about Iceland.
    This is terrific, free publicity for Iceland’s Tourist Industry and I am all for this, however making scary forecasts like this will damage their economy! Who wants to be there when it all erupts and the Volcanic winters begin? Tourists like a little shiver of terror to add excitement to their stay but they are not going to come if they can’t get home to their cosy North Amarican, or European homes. Japanese visitors have such drama at home they want to leave that behind when on holiday and of course Chinese business men will pull out of an unsafe deal ( Maybe not a bad thing!)
    So come on BBC you should check your facts over and check out your experts. This guy isn’t even a qualified Volcanologist!!
    Of course Katla will erupt but nobody can say when.
    This area in the north looks more active that Katla is right now
    Not to mention the story of the Frackking round Hekla.
    Oh! And Hekla can erupt with little or no warning at all.
    Yes! Laki caused global havoc so did Krakatoa…. Volcanoes do these things and it is thanks to these blogs and the dedicated work of all volcanologists that the public can be informed and hopefully lives saved, by understanding how volcanoes work
    Icelanders have lived with Volcanoes for hundreds of generations and we in Europe have just been affected by one eruption of a volcano that we couldn’t even get the name right. Get things into perspective here. One man has died in modern times due to an eruption in Iceland because he stupidly went into a collapsing building, a Pharmacy, to loot drugs.
    Please, PLEASE! If any reporters read this blog (As we know they do!) remember the first rule of Journalism……. Get your Facts RIGHT!!!!

    1. “………and we in Europe have just been affected by one eruption of a volcano that we couldn’t even get the name right.”
      I know Europe has been affected in historical times especially by Laki , but in recent times, really, only this eruption caused havoc in Europe and that was because the wind direction brought ash into international airspace and Pilots had no alternative routes to avoid it!

    2. Diana:
      Along with Jón, you should be designated to write both for Nat Geo and BBC: how clear, how sensible your words! Congrats.
      To add a bit to the overall scare mongering, I should remind you that two other people got killed during Eyjaf’s eruption – O, yes, that one was a killer: it was during the Fimmvörduháls eruption. Two people, like the hundreds of others who rushed to eat roasted salmon cooked in the blazing lava, had a flat tire and decided to walk their ways to the eruption spot. Since the temperatures were well below freezing, they got lost and froze to death – not exactly the kind of death you expect from a volcano!
      But now the media has grown tired from Yellowstone and they’re looking for other sources. Now they found it.
      OT: I am not back… yet. ten more days and you will be asking me to stop cpmmenting.
      Miss you folks!

      1. It is something I have noticed creeping in to BBC News recently…stories made up to promote films or products. In this case I thought it strange that they should consult basically a TV producer for their facts. We often see the main news carrying stories about new movies these days, presented as an exclusive interview with a famous actor or director. That isn’t news!

        When you see this level of inaccuracy in stories you have some knowledge of, you begin to question the accuracy of all the news.

    1. Yes Penny it is an excellent factual account It also highlights the effect on the local economy. Hawaii has made a big tourist feature of it’s volcanoes, maybe in the future El Hierro can also cash in. At the moment though it is a financial disaster. It is such a shame.
      Yes this piece of writing is good. The experts are volcanologists and know their stuff. Hopefully the press will read these comments and realise we are writing constructive criticism not just ranting against ideas we do not uphold.

      1. I also think that the press should look at the facts and interview scientists instead of spreading sensationalist stories without proper research.

        And I am disappointed by BBC because – though not being British myself – I knew BBC news, up to now trusted them and always thought that this TV station had an excellent reputation to defend!

  2. I’m glad you wrote a blog post to draw attention to this, Jon. I completely agree with Diana – my confidence in the BBC has plummeted.

  3. Fictitious news:

    BBC news Report, 17 December 2011
    Doom over Iceland!
    The winds are blowing again from the north over Iceland.
    This spells doom for the UK and Europe!!
    If any volcano erupts now, it will send ash towards Europe, causing another wave of flight disruptions. This could be worse case scenario if Katla eupts like Laki in 1783.
    Also, the north winds cause harsh winter over Iceland, which can send another glacial winter for the UK (OMG, we don’t have enough salt). Yes, in 1962 winter the ice came to UK shoreline. Even polar bears and driftwood could came!

    My non-fictitious comment
    OMG, it’s 4 Dec 2011, and the wind is blowing from the north. I have tons of snow and ice outside, and if Hengill or Bardarbunga erupts, the ash will blow towards Europe. OMG, I should run for the hills. Maybe Akureyri new volcano will erupt!

    1. Obviously this is just an example of how worse fearmongering can be.
      I live 100km west of Katla and I am not worried with Katla (except with the ash towards my garden and making my windows dirt). And Katla of course is not going to erupt any time soon (no deep earthquakes, no inflation)

      1. Yes, reporters if you do read this, please note that:

        – Katla is NOT about to enter eruption. In fact, it might only erupt in 20 years from now.

        – Katla eruptions is likely going to be like Grimsvotn this year, an eruption big but that did NOT even bother Icelanders.

        – Flight disruptions are ONLY due to wind and size of ash particles, not due to the size of eruption. Northernly winds are what spells disruptions for Europe, not a large volcano.

        – The future flood of Katla only affects a very small area locally in Iceland. And, there was already a flood from Katla this year (and eruption), and Iceland did NOT suffered anything special, except for one bridge.

        – Laki was the only historical eruption (not from Katla, but Grimsvotn) to affect Europe in a large way. Those eruptions are in fact a disaster but are thankfully quite rare. Scientists monitor those possibilities. No eruption like this will happen soon.

        Please remember these facts.

    2. Irpsit, the North wind is blowing now and I have Ice on my car…..About right for this time of year in the UK. I sincerely hope the polar bears do not come though as they would be expensive to feed, at least the badgers and hedgehogs who come to my garden are sensible enough to hibernate! I feed all the wildlife in my garden, there is precious little of it here in this industrial area. Here are some of my garden visitors

  4. How can you say that katla isn’t erupting anytime soon? From when thing changed before the eruption in 2010, it only took a few weeks, and then BHAM! My point is, that volcanoes are just as unpredictable as us women. And btw, it has been loads of earthquakes there since the minor eruption this summer. I know that you wouldn’t promise that katla is not erupting in a few weeks. Over to something different. Whats up with Eyja? And the earthquakes there lately. It’s not possible for her to erupt again now, right? And last. Has anyone figured out about the data at hekla? Is that only an error?

  5. I really appreciate the sense that is written here and I’ve been following for the six months or so since finding the site. The BBC is often accused of biased reporting on climate issues, supporting a catastrophic future climate scenario due to man-made global warming. As the climate appears to be in a cooling phase, a cynical view would be that they are planting the meme of volcanic cooling early in the minds of the public to associate it in peoples’ minds with a possible future event even if it is small.

  6. Is it really hype? Not really if you consider the effects. For my money they just got the dates wrong is all.

    The descriptions are real but the names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent.

    A 1783 type of eruption would be astounding…And there are actually NATO plans for the complete evacuation of Iceland. People survived it sort of but I am sure it cut most of the inhabitants lifespans pretty badly.

    A little survey in 09.

    There wouldnt be much the Icelandics could do in a 1783 type of eruption except to leave. Tainted the water, killed most of the livestock. They have no military, equipment to take people out of an area and most wouldnt leave their livestock unless they were compensated to do so.

    It wouldnt take long to get them off though.. The entire population is smaller than Albuquerque NM. About 1000 flights to take them off. But where would they take them? The EU wouldnt likely be a good place as the ash would ground them pretty quickly with all of the commensurate issues for going west.

    So its not a bad article, just out of date.

    Also… I get the impression that Mr. Cochran hasnt been to Iceland very many times. Good site, hot chicks. One of the reasons I took a couple of pick up classes in sciences at Embry Riddle. All the good looking ones were into save the planet. Check out the NatGeo girls.

    1. M. Randolph Kruger Hi there 🙂 I agree another Laki would be horrendous. Yes! It can happen. My points were more that the writer got his basic facts wrong. If the media get facts wrong the public will lose faith in what they read. This could have catastrophic effects when a real emergency situation arises.
      As for evacuation Iceland. I know it is much biggerpopulation than Tristan da Cunha , but back in 1961,when their volcano erupted, the British government evacuated the island and brought the people to the UK.

  7. Wouldn’t it be good if the news media would only tell us good news.
    If they would rinse all bad or negative elements out of all information and tell only news that are comforting and sterilized of all content that could cause fear, or suggest to people to expect something potentially bad, and even prepare for it.

    Of course if Katla were to erupt and this time spit out gigantic amounts of ash and other volcanic material for months even, there is no cause for alarm is there.
    For example the eruption 1918 had no effect on Aviation, the Wright brothers were still able to fly their plane.

    Icelanders are prepared for this, i think other nations should keep this in mind.

    1. Hi Fonix.
      I agree, but…
      So the Wright brothers were flying a time machine. 🙂
      Was it not 1903 if I recall.
      I am sure that an Eyjfj. eruption would not have disturbed the world war II flying a bit.
      Low flying piston aircrafts do fly trough that without interruption.

      1. The Wright brothers managed to fly a few meters in 1903.
        here they are in France 1908 in their flying machine.

        The point i am trying to make is that there has not been any serious eruption in the Northern hemisphere since commercial airliners came into existence.
        Only small aircraft have piston engines, all larger propeller powered aircraft have propeller jet engines.
        The old piston engines in larger aircraft are gone a long time ago, and even those need clean air.

        I read this article by the BBC and found nothing wrong with it, only a few things that could be misunderstood, like the comment about the shared zone and Laki.
        Katla, Grimsvötn and Bárðarbunga share a area called the “dead zone”. All of those 3 volcano systems have a fissure that extends into that zone, Katla has Eldgjá, Grimsvötn has Laki and Bárðarbunga has Veiðivötn.
        All of those fissures are enormously powerful and if one of them were to erupt it would most certainly have global effects.

      1. @ Diana. We had a small quake just 6/7 miles from where I live, just a 1.7 though in November this year. Far too small to be felt apart from the actual area of the quake and of course I was asleep, what else would you do in a quake? LOL The small fault though does run out to sea and runs right under a house I used to live in. We had a small quake there when I was about 17 years old and I felt that one, just a deep bang (right under our kitchen table as we sat at it. Or so it seemed. 🙂 ) and a short rumble,

        I enjoyed and totally agreed with your post about the BBC article. One thing though, you mentioned fracking at Hekla in your post, did you mean at Hengill? I really hope so and it was just a typo as fracking close to Hekla would be one scary thing to do.

  8. I think katla will erupt alot sooner than 20 years! I read somewhere (report about katla by scientists) that inflation is difficult to moniter in katla as the amount of ice that melts and rebuilds does not provide an accurate reading of the actual volcano. I do not believe an eruption would have ‘world consequenses’ either. We are still here today and it has erupted several times in the past…. a degree of caution needs to be enforced wen looking at katla. You cant be a doomsday lover or too laid back. She just needs keeping an eye on and people need to calm down! 🙂

  9. Just a quick question to think about. If Katla were to erupt, wouldn’t it have to be almost like Pinatubo to really affect the entire world climate? It probably would do something like Eyjaf did last year, maybe a bit more, but I don’t think it would be world wide. I also doubt it would be another Laki. It would be troublesome, but not exactly a total disaster.

    1. Yes maybe something like that.
      But , Katla has something that neither Laki nor Pinatubo had, the glacier.
      The water vapor will wash out most of the SO2 which was the main reason for the climate change for the other two.
      Besides Katla has always ? had very clean basaltic eruption unlike the dacit from Eyjo. just like Grimsfjall. The ash falls out much faster from the air.
      So why are everybody worrying so much .
      All the people dying from starving and war.
      We are pretty save here in Iceland thank you all. (well anyway if we can get rid of some of those monymongers) .-)

    1. Diana:
      Theer is a strange pattern in mny sill stations.
      jon mntions Grimsfjall in his next post.
      Let us wait and see.
      Good night everyone!

  10. Katla will erupt when it is good and ready. Hopefully it will not cause the disruption to Iceland and the global devastation that the BBC predicts – I doubt it will. If there is an ash cloud, then so be it. It will be pointless blaming the people of Iceland, they have learned not to worry about the things they cannot change.

  11. Ya know… I would be concerned about the HYPE from the BBC if I thought that they really mattered.

    I quit using them as a source of reputable news years ago, so it doesn’t’ really matter to me. Not much different than GLP in my book.

  12. Nobody knows what will or WILL not happen. And, as a Scientist, One should be very careful in pasting optimism, because Nature likes to Eat Optimists. Nature does not Care about Your “Silly Airplanes” or Your Plans to Get married. Nature was here FIRST. And, From the Way Humanity has Treated Nature; I would say Nature is due its Vengeance!

    MT. St. Helens Proved, The Scientific Community Has a Lot to Learn.

  13. I find it hard to believe in an age when people are privy to more information than ever before, they still have faith in the BBC and the wider MSM.

    A little history lesson on the founding of the BBC…..During the general strike of 1926, the BBC founder Lord Reith wrote anti union speeches for then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. These speeches were subsequently broadcast on the BBC, whilst the Unions were given no air time.

    As my wise old Grandmother once said…Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear!

    A Greek once said…A society in fear is a society controlled.

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