Lake Nyos is the largest reservoir of carbon dioxide in the world. On August 21, 1986, it caused the deaths of nearly 1800 people and countless animals living near it. Scientists are still constantly finding solutions to save people before starting to kill people for the second time.
Where is Lake Nyos?
The lake lies in the northwestern region of Cameroon, on the edge of an inactive volcano. Located in the Oku Volcanic Field, the lake sits on a pocket of magma about 80 kilometers long and 50 miles wide. The carbon dioxide that forms from this magma slowly percolates through the Earth’s crust until it reaches Lake Nyos. The carbon dioxide becomes concentrated and bubbles up from the bottom of the lake. This is when the lake’s crater disaster occurred, costing over 1700 lives. This place is also known as one of the Top 8 dangerous places in the world.
Scientists believe that the lake has a natural history of releasing carbon dioxide. The gas forms at the bottom of the lake because the crater is a hot spot for volcanic activity. The gas is trapped for years by the lake’s unique structure, and a cap formed over the warm water has failed to keep it in place. This gas could have been released by an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or even rain or landslides.
Before the lake was discovered and inhabited, people in the area were still unsure of its volcanic origins. Instead, they attributed the misbehavior of the lake to supernatural forces. They believed in gods, spirits, and enraged ancestors. At that time, it was taboo to approach the lake’s shores. But that changed when researchers discovered a method to control the gas and water levels that caused the lake to erupt. The process of lava cooling in a lake is a complex one.
The story of ‘Nyos’ the lake of death
The incident happened on August 22, 1986, the locals went live and the animals of the village near Lake Nyos were all killed, so the official authorities were informed. There were exactly 1,746 people and more than 3,000 livestock along with many wild animals, birds, and insects that also mysteriously died after an unknown explosion. Visiting Deadly Lake Nyos In Cameroon will be an experience that is hard to come by if you go here without a rescue team or getting permission from the country’s regulatory authorities.
Autopsy results only provide very little information, most of the dead have no specific signs. Their internal organs are still functioning well, there are no external signs of radiation contamination. A special thing happened right after the police started investigating, they discovered that the lake water had changed from blue to red at some point.mFrom here, scientists began to get involved and they thought in the direction that this could be an eruption of toxic gas from deep below the lake floor spreading into the living air of the people here. After years of research and research, scientists have shown that:
The reason carbon dioxide in Lake Nyos is so deadly is that it traps a lot of it. When exposed to lower pressure, the carbon dioxide in the water wants to erupt in gas form. When you open a soda bottle, it may effervesce. Likewise, carbon dioxide in the bottom of Lake Nyos causes a rapid degassing process. But there is another explanation. Something destabilized the lake, or perhaps something happened to release the gas in a way that allowed it to escape into the atmosphere.
The eruption of Lake Nyos killed almost 2,000 people in Cameroon on August 21, 1986, and destroyed four villages. The deadly gas is carbon dioxide, which is ubiquitous in Earth’s atmosphere. Even though the gas is odorless and harmless in small amounts, it can be fatal in large doses. Hence, scientists are trying to find ways to mitigate the dangers of this disaster and make the lake safer for the inhabitants.
Because Lake Nyos is relatively small, its methane content is quite high. The lake is only 1.6km long and less than a mile wide. Yet the lava flow from Mount Nyiragongo in 2002 did not bring in enough material to disturb the bottom layers of the lake. Furthermore, the lava flow stopped before it reached the bottom layers of the lake, where the gas remains in solution.
The gas emitted from Lake Nyos caused a massive explosion. The cold, saturated water spewed massive amounts of carbon dioxide. But unlike other deadly volcanoes, the lake Nyos’ gas release is relatively silent. Even the scientists and local residents who survived the eruption have not been able to determine the exact reason for the gas release. They have only been able to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide in the air for two years.
However, it is possible that the death toll was much higher than what was reported. It is not yet known what caused the gas to enter the air, but it is believed to have been a result of a combination of different factors. The water’s proximity to the lake and the direction of the wind may have contributed to the fatality. While the lake is located on a flat plane, the toxic gas concentration is less than if it reaches the hilltops.
The explosion in August 1986 of Lake Nyos in Cameroon was such a massive event that it left locals confused. The explosion released 1 cubic kilometer of heavier-than-air CO2 into the surrounding low-lying areas. The gas suffocated about 1,700 people and killed three thousand livestock. The lake is now 80 percent degassed. The lake could erupt at any time.
The gas cloud that formed was the result of a mass of carbon dioxide that rose to the surface at a rapid pace. When the bubbles hit the water, the carbon dioxide gas bursts from its solution in large quantities at once. Although the gas explosion was relatively silent, survivors reported hearing rumbling and hearing distant explosions. Some also reported hearing a rockslide in the area.
Lake Nyos is one of the most dangerous places in the world for volcanic activity, and it’s estimated that as many as 10,000 people could perish in a single eruption. A dam on the lake’s northern edge may not survive an eruption, and a water spill could reach the Nigerian border, which is 50 miles away. As a solution, geologists are attempting to pump the gas slowly out into the atmosphere. Work is expected to begin within the next few weeks.
The methane in Lake Kivu is highly explosive and could trigger a massive explosion of carbon dioxide and water. Scientists believe that the lake is 1000 times more gas than any other lake in the world and that a limnic eruption would be catastrophic. The resulting tsunami could cause a catastrophic event. The tsunami wave of 1986 was 20 meters tall. The eruption of Lake Nyos also created an enormous amount of gas.
In 2006, Rwandan company Shema Power Lake Kivu purchased a pilot plant and began building a 56 MW facility. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2022. The methane in the lake has a value of US$42 billion in the next 50 years. A similar project has also been proposed for Lake Kivu, where KivuWatt plans to use methane as an energy source.
Natural dam Before active volcanoes
The tragedy of Lake Nyos in Cameroon, Africa, was an ecological disaster that claimed almost 1800 lives. Though not unprecedented, the disaster was a rare occurrence, as it killed terrestrial animals in its vicinity. The lake is located in a remote region of the country, and it came just two years after a lethal gas explosion in the nearby lake Monoun, which killed 37 people. Despite its devastating effects, Lake Nyos was virtually ignored.
The natural dam around Lake Nyos is made of poorly-consolidated material with Yellowstone. If this dam were to collapse, catastrophic floods could result, affecting the region as far downstream as Nigeria. The lake’s deadly waters have caused massive famine and many deaths in the area. Many people still live in the area. The victims of this tragedy have yet to fully recover, and it’s unclear how the disaster will be averted.
Although scientists have many ways to prevent the disaster at lake nyos from happening, some problems must be fixed first. One of the first things to do is digest the lake before it reaches a critical level. The process involves pumping gas-rich bottom waters to the surface. As the dissolved gas floats to the surface, it expands and deflates, lowering the density of the gas-water mixture. A degassing fountain was installed in 2001 in Lake Nyos, and the pipe is still visible nearly to the bottom of the 210-meter-deep lake.
The leaky natural dam around Lake Nyos is causing concern for residents. The dam was built around a natural wall that is prone to weathering and deterioration. But as the lake continues to overflow, a gas burst could wreak havoc on the area. Thousands of people could be killed if the dam fails. If it does, the flood could reach Nigeria and drown at least ten thousand people.
The natural dam in Lake Nyos is not built to the standards of engineering. A geotechnical expert should analyze the potential hazard. Ideally, a tunnel should be dug 65 m below the level of Lake Nyos and equipped with valves to regulate the water level in the lake. This proposal is only an indicative draft. The aim is to protect the upper unit and consolidate the lower unit.
Months after the Lake Nyos disaster, scientists continued to monitor the lake’s CO2 levels. When CO2 levels started to rise again, they concluded that their hypothesis was correct. They also estimated the amount of CO2 escaping from the lake on August 22.
Scientists took another 10 years to figure out how to make the lake safe for CO2 emissions by dropping a pipe 13cm in diameter to a depth of 182m, right at the bottom of the lake. When the water at the bottom of the lake is pumped to the top of the tube, CO2 escapes on the top of the tube, shooting water and gas up to 45m high. The chimney effect will trigger a continuous reaction until all the CO2 is released into the air. The first pipe was installed and tested in 1995 and, after it was found to be working safely, a fixed pipe was installed in 2001.
In the end, the solution proposed by the Cameroon government was to evacuate people, livestock, and animals within a radius of 12km. And combined with scientists who rushed to work in 4 years, just reinforced a nearby dam (the dam located to the north of Lake Nyos is eroding) they used concrete to install 4 more suction pipes to reduce CO2 to a safe level.
The government of Cameroon does not allow human visitors to set foot on Lake Nyos to avoid causing any more disasters. Check out the following article on PowerPacPlus.org to discover more new things!