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New seismic activity around volcano

A surge of small earthquakes has been reported around Iceland's Katla volcano, but scientists said there is no immediate concern that the increased seismic activity will trigger a dangerous eruption.

Although earthquakes around Katla are common, an increase in cluster earthquakes is not.

"It's one of the most feared volcanos, so we're closely monitoring it," said Pall Einarsson of the University of Iceland.

"That said, it's normal for earthquakes to be detected around Katla. What's a bit unusual is that we're seeing swarms of small earthquakes, some occurring every 10 minutes or so."

After flying over the area to monitor the situation yesterday evening, scientists said they could not yet determine what caused the increased seismic activity.

Although they detected signs that Katla was preparing for an eruption, they also emphasised that the volcano had also seen similar activity without erupting before.

Nevertheless, "there are signs of Katla being more active now than in the past few years so there is every reason to keep an eye on her", said Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland, after the flight.

Iceland sits on a large volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic's mid-oceanic ridge. Eruptions, common throughout Iceland's history, are often triggered by seismic activity when the Earth's plates move and when magma from deep underground pushes its way to the surface.

Like earthquakes, predicting the timing of volcanic eruptions is an imprecise science.

Last year's eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano forced hundreds of people to be evacuated and paralysed international air travel for weeks because of a hovering ash cloud.

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