Limnic Eruptions

A limnic eruption is a rare natural disaster where dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) suddenly erupts from deep lake waters, creating a deadly gas cloud. This can be catastrophic for nearby communities, as the dense CO2 cloud can displace oxygen, leading to suffocation of both humans and animals.

Limnic eruptions are often triggered by a sudden release of volcanic gases or changes in the lake’s chemistry. Once the CO2 is released, it can rapidly travel along the ground, potentially reaching areas several kilometers away from the lake. Historical limnic eruptions, like the 1986 disaster at Lake Nyos in Cameroon, have highlighted the importance of monitoring and managing such lakes to mitigate the risks associated with these events.

Limnic Eruptions

The potential for limnic eruptions exists in any location with deep lakes that accumulate significant amounts of carbon dioxide. At Lake Nyos in Cameron, a massive release of dissolved carbon dioxide from the lake had suffocated over 1,700 people and countless livestock in nearby villages. This tragic event brought attention to the dangers of limnic eruptions and underscored the importance of monitoring and managing such lakes to prevent future disasters.

Preventing limnic eruptions involves monitoring and managing the conditions of deep lakes prone to such events. Measures include:

  • Early Warning Systems: Implementing monitoring systems to detect changes in gas levels, water chemistry, or seismic activity that could indicate a potential eruption.
  • Venting Systems: Installing pipes or other structures to allow the gradual release of gases from the lake, preventing their accumulation to dangerous levels.
  • Chemical Treatments: Introducing substances into the lake to alter its chemistry, reducing the likelihood of gas buildup.
  • Scientific Research: Conducting thorough studies to understand the geological and hydrological factors that contribute to limnic eruptions, aiding in the development of effective prevention strategies.
  • Public Awareness: Educating communities near these lakes about the risks and evacuation procedures in the event of a potential eruption.

Combining these approaches can contribute to mitigating the risks associated with limnic eruptions and protecting nearby populations.


  1. The limnic eruption at Lake Monoun that occurred in 1984 released a large amount of carbon dioxide. It led to the sudden displacement of oxygen, resulting in the tragic deaths of 37 people and thousands of livestock. Limnic eruptions are rare, but they can be deadly events in certain volcanic lakes.

    Lake Nyos, lake monoun and lake Oku, all the three lakes are located in the Western part of Cameroon Volcanic line.

  2. Lake Kivu also has the potential for a limnic eruption due to the presence of dissolved carbon dioxide and methane in its deep waters. The lake is stratified, with layers of different temperatures and densities. The lower depths contain significant amounts of dissolved gases, primarily carbon dioxide and methane, released by volcanic activity and organic matter decomposition.
    If a disturbance were to occur, such as a volcanic eruption or earthquake, it could trigger the release of these gases. This sudden release could lead to a limnic eruption, displacing oxygen and posing a threat to nearby communities. Luckily, efforts have been made to monitor and manage the gas levels in Lake Kivu to mitigate the risk of a limnic eruption.

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