Researchers are concerned that a ‘killer lake’ in Africa could be fatal to millions, according to studies.

Freshwater experts are warning that Lake Kivu, situated between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is harboring potentially explosive gases. 

Kivu is one of Africa’s great ‘rift’ lakes as it has formed over an area of extensional tectonics in the continental crust.

Nearby is Mount Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanos, which sends lava towards Lake Kivu whenever it erupts.

Over thousands of years, volcanic activity from Mount Nyiragongo has caused an immense amount of dissolved methane and carbon dioxide to accumulate under Kivu’s surface.

Now scientists are warning that an eruption from Mount Nyiragongo could trigger the lake to release these lethal gases into the atmosphere, putting millions of lives at risk.

Specifically, the event, dubbed a “limnic eruption,” would result in large waves and a poisonous gas cloud, according to Francois Darchambeau, a limnologist and environmental manager at a gas extraction company called KivuWat.

“This is what we call a killer lake,” Darchambeau said.

The only other ‘killer lakes’ in the world are lakes Nyos and Monoun in northwest Cameroon.

Of the three lakes, Nyos most recently suffered a limnic eruption in 1986 after a landslide – the consequences were tragic as 1,800 people in nearby villages died from asphyxiation.

To make matters worse, limnic eruptions are incredibly difficult to predict and therefore avoid.

“No-one would ever really claim they know when or if this is going to happen”, science journalist and volcanologist Dr. Robin George Andrews told the BBC last year.

Still, despite the potential for catastrophe, scientists have found a way to remove some of the methane from the lake and utilize it for energy generation in nearby Rwanda.

Experts are also hoping that by removing some of the noxious gases from the lake, they could relieve it of some pressure to potentially lower the risk of a limnic eruption.

Source: New York Post

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