La Palma has been firing out some dramatic news stories of late (did you hear about the dog drone rescue?), and now it’s begun literally firing out fiery cannonballs called lava bombs. In a video shared on Twitter, one such lava lump can be seen gleefully bouldering down the sloped landscape, occasionally letting off little flames (presumably to go faster) as it bounces about on the uneven terrain.
Lava bombs are lumps of molten rock that are spewed out of volcanoes during an eruption. They are blasted out in a sticky state, but solidify as they soar through the air, sometimes travelling several kilometers from the volcano.
Their airborne entry into the world means lava bombs are found in different shapes, owing to the fluidity of the lava they were formed from and how they were aerodynamically shaped as they flew through the air. As a result, lava bombs come in different shapes and sizes and the way they form and settle decides what kind of lava bomb it is.
Highly fluid magma often results in “ribbon bombs” that look like long cylinders, or it can settle in a ball shape if forces act on the magma’s surface tension. If a lava bomb is still quite hot when it hits the ground, it can slap down to Earth and form what’s called a cow pie bomb that resembles... well, cow poop. Deliciously-named bread-crust bombs form tantalizing cracks on their surfaces, like a good loaf that’ll burn your face off. Bread-crust bombs are also the most likely to explode from gas pressure, so it’s best not to look too close at these.
While a novelty, these flaming cannonballs do come with quite a severe list of side effects should you get in their way. Some can be massive, too – an eruption at Mount Asama, Japan, spat out lava bombs that were 5 to 6 meters (16 to 20 feet) in diameter. Even at this enormous size, they were reaching distances of 600 meters (2,000 feet), demonstrating the very real danger these magma projectiles represent.
That said, from a safe distance, it’s nice to see this little lava lump having a ball on La Palma.