Friday, July 20, 2012

Lake Nyos - Super Happy Lucky Lake of Fun!!!!

[Warning: That title was completely ironic]

Continuing in our discovery of unique lakes around the world, we are featuring Lake Nyos in the northwest region of Cameroon, Africa. If you're just joining us, our feature lakes do not always showcase evil, soul sucking kinds of lakes. We have previously featured the beautiful Plitvice Lakes of Croatia and Crater Lake in Oregon.

Lake Nyos looking healthy post 2001 (note water plume, top centre)

It looks like an ordinary lake one would find in Africa but on August 21, 1986 it was responsible for taking the lives of 1,600 people and 3,000 various types of livestock. That death toll - the largest in history for a burping lake - was just on the one day. It is responsible for killing things that breath oxygen for a long time.


A pocket of magma lies beneath the lake and leaks carbon dioxide (CO2) into the water, changing it into carbonic acid. Just in case you are now worrying about random lakes that spew poison take comfort in the fact that there are only three known exploding lakes to be saturated with carbon dioxide in this way, the others being Lake Monoun, 100 km (62 mi) away SSE, and Lake Kivu in Democratic Republic of Congo. So, all of them are in Africa.

What does Lake Nyos look like when it's saturated with CO2? You're in luck. Behold:

If that doesn't look like it could kill you I don't know what does

OY!

Appropriately red from having blood on its hands just after the August 1986 disaster

You'll remember that one of the ten plagues on Egypt in the bible was that the Nile turned to 'blood'. Let us not assume that that isn't possible. Interestingly, a kind of algae will turn water red as well. More about that in an upcoming unique lake post.

After the disaster of 1986, measures were put in place to burp the lake and reduce the gas saturation with the hopes of preventing such a thing from happening again.



A pipe is set up vertically between the lake bottom and the surface. A small pump raises the water in the pipe up to a level where it becomes saturated with gas, thus lightening the water column; consequently, the saturated water rises to the surface. 




A much healthier coloured lake but nothing lives in it. No fish. Just algae

With the degassing technology in place, Lake Nyos still poses a threat due to its weakening natural wall. A geological tremor could cause this natural dike to give way, allowing water to rush into downstream villages all the way into Nigeria and allowing much carbon dioxide to escape. And water. Which most of us have difficulty breathing without dying.

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