The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma has occasionally twitched, convulsed, and rumbled, but no lava has emerged since 1971. That changed this weekend. At 3:12 p.m. local time on September 19, rising magma tore open several fissures on its western flanks, and an extravagant eruption began.
From afar, it looked spectacular. Vertiginous fountains of lava almost 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit screamed skyward, reaching heights of up to 5,000 feet—nearly twice that of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper. Below, braided rivers of molten rock poured from the fissures like blood from open wounds.
Sitting 300 miles west of Morocco’s shores in the Atlantic Ocean, La Palma only exists because a volcanic hot spot