The Killer Lake of Cameroon

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The Lake Nyos region in Cameroon is home to somewhere between five and ten thousand people in the floodplain. During the summer of 1985, as much as one cubic kilometer of carbon-dioxide was suddenly released from Lake Nyos. The gas and water fountain produced by the explosion reached over 100 meters. A surface wave of 30 meters high moved across the surface of the lake. The resulting gas cloud killed people and livestock as far as 26 kilometers away from the lake. A total of 1800 people died. Lake Nyos is a meromictic lake, which is a deep lake with layers that do not mix and high concentrations of solutes that originate from groundwater that enters from the bottom of the lake. Carbon-dioxide gas from magma from nearby volcanos dissolved in the groundwater and was trapped due to stratification. Any movement of deep water could trigger a gas release of saturated water. The eruption was most likely triggered due to a landslide into the lake. Several processes have since been out into place to prevent this kind of thing from happening again in Lake Nyos. One of these, and possibly the most effective, is a degassing fountain that was installed in the lake (can be seen below). Once it was started, the degassing was spontaneous and self-sustaining.

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