Volcanic 'A 'a Flow
Accretionary Lava Balls
Volcano Terms and Definition

`A `a flow

`A`a (pronounced "ah-ah") is a Hawaiian term for lava flows that have a rough rubbly surface composed of broken lava blocks called clinkers. The incredibly spiny surface of a solidified `a`a flow makes walking very difficult and slow. The clinkery surface actually covers a massive dense core, which is the most active part of the flow. As pasty lava in the core travels downslope, the clinkers are carried along at the surface. At the leading edge of an `a`a flow, however, these cooled fragments tumble down the steep front and are buried by the advancing flow. This produces a layer of lava fragments both at the bottom and top of an `a`a flow.

Glowing accretionary lava balls (bottom, 0.75 m in diameter) in front of moving `a`a flows. Both flows were erupted from Pu`u `O`o vent on the east rift of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii.
Accretionary Lava Balls
Accretionary lava balls are roughly spherical masses that form on the surface of an `a`a flow. They range in size from a few centimeters to several meters in diameter. Lava balls grow when a small fragment of solidified lava rolls along the surface of an active flow and lava sticks or accretes to its surface. The growth of a lava ball is similar to the way a giant snowball grows when soft, sticky snow adheres to its surface as it rolls downslope.


Volcano Glossary



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