On September 16, 2013 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the southern tip of Iceland and captured a remarkable image dust plumes blowing hundreds of kilometers over the Atlantic Ocean. The westernmost plume is dark tan in color and so thick that the blue ocean waters are obscured from view near Iceland's coast. The eastern plume appears broader, thinner and light gray in color.
According to the Icelandic Met Office, near the Mýrdalsjökull and Vatnajökull ice-caps there are vast glacial outwash plains which stretch from the glacial margins to the sea. These plains, formed by melt water from glaciers, are known as sandur. Strong northerly winds frequently blow dust from the sandur plains far from the shore. This particular dust plume originates to the east of the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap.
The Katla volcano, one of the largest in Iceland, lies under the Mýrdalsjökull glacier and in the general region of the westernmost plume. Katla has a history of large, violent eruptions occurring on an average of every 50-100 years. The volcano has been increasingly restless since 1999, with increased seismicity in recent years. In 2011 a very small eruption was reported, with minimal damage. Because of the increasing restlessness and the dangerous nature of historic eruptions, the volcano is currently carefully monitored. None of the monitoring agencies reported eruption at Katla in mid-September of this year.