Imagine being slowly suffocated to death by a lake…
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Imagine being slowly suffocated to death by a lake…

By Valentina Ménager

This has been the reality for many who have been killed by carbon eruptions. 

A limnic eruption occurs when a lake explodes and shoots a cloud of carbon dioxide into the air. This happens when a lake is unable to experience any sort of drainage or movement of water, which typically releases carbon. In the few lakes that are unable to do this, the carbon piles up at the bottom and compresses to the point where it explodes—sending clouds of carbon dioxide into the air. These clouds of CO2 travel quickly with the help of the wind, slowly suffocating surrounding animals and humans by draining precious oxygen out of the air.

A famous limnic eruption is the Lake Nyos explosion. Lake Nyos is a crater lake that runs through the country of Cameroon. After a nearby landslide in 1986, Lake Nyos exploded and sent a 30mph cloud of carbon dioxide toward local villages. 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock suffocated to death in their sleep.

The largest of all these lakes is Lake Kivu, one of the Great Lakes of Africa. Lake Kivu is in close proximity to Africa’s most active and dangerous volcano, Mount Nyiragongo. If Mount Nyiragongo were to erupt, it would create a large enough movement to trigger the explosion of Lake Kivu. The lake hasn’t exploded in recent years, but the threat still looms.

To minimize these eruptions, scientists have been developing and installing machines that allow the water at the bottom of the lake to move. This enables the lakes to slowly release their carbon.