Volcanic Bombs

Volcanic Bomb
Volcanic Bombs. Fresh Volcanic Bomb photo by J.D. Griggs

Volcanic bomb is a pyroclast which was semi-molten (viscous) while ejected from a volcanic vent and is therefore shaped while in flight. A mass of molten rock (tephra) larger than 64 mm (2.5 inches) in diameter, formed when a volcano ejects viscous fragments of lava during an eruption. They cool into solid fragments before they reach the ground. Because volcanic bombs cool after they leave the volcano, they are extrusive igneous rocks.

Volcanic bombs are larger than 64 mm in diameter. Smaller pyroclasts are called lapilli. Pyroclasts (>64 mm) that were already solid when ejected are called blocks. Blocks are typically more angular because unlike bombs they are not aerodynamically shaped by airflow while in flight. 

Volcanic Bomb
"Almond" volcanic bomb found in the Cinder Cones region of the Mojave National Preserve.

Bombs are named according to their shape, which is determined by the fluidity of the magma from which they are formed.

    Ribbon or cylindrical bombs form from highly to moderately fluid magma, ejected as irregular strings and blobs. The strings break up into small segments which fall to the ground intact and look like ribbons. Hence, the name "ribbon bombs". These bombs are circular or flattened in cross section, are fluted along their length, and have tabular vesicles.
    Spherical bombs also form from high to moderately fluid magma. In the case of spherical bombs, surface tension plays a major role in pulling the ejecta into spheres.

    Spindle, fusiform, or almond/rotational bombs are formed by the same processes as spherical bombs, though the major difference being the partial nature of the spherical shape. Spinning during flight leaves these bombs looking elongated or almond shaped; the spinning theory behind these bombs' development has also given them the name 'fusiform bombs'. Spindle bombs are characterised by longitudinal fluting, one side slightly smoother and broader than the other. This smooth side represents the underside of the bomb as it fell through the air.

    Cow pie bombs are formed when highly fluid magma falls from moderate height, so the bombs do not solidify before impact (they are still liquid when they strike the ground). They consequently flatten or splash and form irregular roundish disks, which

      Bread-crust bombs are formed if the outside of the lava bombs solidifies during their flights. They may develop cracked outer surfaces as the interiors continue to expand.

      Cored bombs are bombs that have rinds of lava enclosing a core of previously consolidated lava. The core consists of accessory fragments of an earlier eruption, accidental fragments of country rock or, in rare cases, bits of lava formed earlier during the same eruption.
      Volcanic Bomb
      The interior of a sample from a scoria cone in Tenerife, Canary Islands.
      Volcanic Bomb
      Fusiform lava bomb. Capelinhos Volcano, Faial Island, Azores.
      Next Post Previous Post