Wednesday, June 22, 2016

SearchResearch Challenge (6/22/16): The intriguing way a lake can be dangerous

Not long ago I was reading about a strange lake... 

I know what you're thinking--how strange can a lake be?  A lake's a lake, right?  

In this case, the lake I'm thinking of seems not just strange, but deadly.  

The lake I've been reading about directly caused the death of a lot of people.  They didn't drown, and it wasn't due to something obvious (like a dam bursting, or an earthquake), but was something intrinsic to the lake itself.  

A generic lake, quiet, serene, and probably not very dangerous lake.

It's not a poisonous lake (that is, you can go swimming in it without any harm coming to you), and it's not a boiling lake, like this one in Yellowstone National Park.  Falling into this is a bad idea.  

On the other hand, a boiling lake WILL kill you either with temperature or poisons.
But this isn't what we're searching for this week. 


That's not what we're searching for this week.  Instead, we want to find...  


1.  Can you find a lake somewhere in the world that caused the death of nearly 2000 people?  How could such a thing happen?  (Hint: This happened within the past 100 years, so it's relatively recently.)  

2. Was a large wave of water associated with this bizarre lake event?  If so, how high did the wave go, and what kind of damage did it cause?  (If any.)  

3. Given this kind of watery disaster, how high would the water go up into the sky from the event? 

As always, be sure to tell us HOW you found the answer.   (Extra points for finding high-quality, reliable sources.  Presentations from 6th graders, as wonderful as they might be, are not a substitute for highly credible sources.)  

Search on! 

12 comments:

  1. I generally knew the answer since I am interested in geology. The search term was: "volcanic lake carbon dioxide"
    answer 1) Lake Nyos 2) same page--about 5 meters 3) 100 meters

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  2. 1) Lake Nyos in NW Cameroon on August 21, 1986, due to limnic eruption from high levels of carbon dioxide. 2) "fountain of water over 300 feet into the air and creating a small tsunami. Hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide burst forth at 60 miles an hour, suffocating people up to 15 miles away. Of the 800 residents of nearby Nyos, six survived. In all, 1,746 people died and more than 3,500 livestock perished in a matter of minutes." 3) 300 feet

    My search was very basic "lake killed 2000 people" and led me to an article at slate.com, which I then verified via sources in NYT and Smithsonian.

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  3. I Googled lake death 2000 people and found Lake Nyos.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2013/07/26/lake_nyos_killed_1746_when_it_released_a_huge_pocket_of_co2.html

    http://www.neatorama.com/2007/05/21/the-strangest-disaster-of-the-20th-century/

    https://www2.usgs.gov/blogs/features/printemail/?post=173310

    From the USGS site: The gas burst in 1986 from the 200-meter deep Lake Nyos was so violent that water washed over the 80-meter high promontory in the foreground. It denuded much of the shore of buildings and vegetation.

    Not sure how high in the sky it would go and don't have time to calculate. I spent about 10 minutes on this.

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  4. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone.

    For Q1

    [lake kills 2000 people]

    Lake Nyos

    How did Lake Nyos suddenly kill?...read on to learn about the lake that exploded in an eerily similar fashion just two years before...Lake Monoun and Other Exploding Lakes...There's also Lake Quilotoa in Ecuador...Lake Superior in the United States, for instance, charges with gas from decaying matter until the season changes....

    [lake Nyos disaster]

    1986: Hundreds gassed in Cameroon lake disaster

    [nyos site:geo.arizona.edu/] Site can be reached even trying this
    [geo arizona edu]so, I used Google cached version!


    [lake Nyos disaster causes] and [lake Nyos disaster causes Usgs]

    Exploding Lakes in West Africa USGS (2012); The cause was a phenomenon later named..."...While exploding lakes in Cameroon are unique, volcanic CO2 poses problems in some areas of the U.S., as well. In fact, in 1994, USGS researchers discovered that large volumes of CO2 were seeping from beneath Mammoth Mountain, a young volcano in the Long Valley area of California..."

    a cloudy mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water droplets rose violently from Lake Nyos, Cameroon

    Q1 can answer Q2 and Q3. I tried also these

    [lake Nyos Limnic Eruption]
    Lake Nyos Demonstration. Do not try this in home!

    [Nyos exploding fountain]

    Geology and the Environment
    By Bernard W. Pipkin, Dee D. Trent, Richard Hazlett, Paul Bierman
    So much escaped from the lake that its level dropped 1 meter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Comment 3.

      [Exploding lakes facts]

      Limnic eruption / Erupción límnica

      Extreme lakes

      The gas:water ratio for the fountain is 10:1; that means that for every liter of water you have ten liters of carbon-dioxide gas released over the platform

      [Degassing lake Nyos] in Images

      Degassing Nyos Project website Project shows a trailer video "Taming of a killer lake" "20 years to find a solution". Also mentions : The term "limnic eruption" was first coined by J.C. Sabroux at the UNESCO Conference on the lake Nyos disaster, in March 1987 at Yaounde

      There are three lakes in the world containing a high proportion of dissolved gas : lakes Nyos and Monoun in Cameroon and Lake Kivu on the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Degassing Nyos: 50 m high fountain

      [lake nyos limnic eruption facts] Search Tools past year. No much more information.

      Delete
  5. Answers


    1. Can you find a lake somewhere in the world that caused the death of nearly 2000 people? How could such a thing happen? (Hint: This happened within the past 100 years, so it's relatively recently.)

    A: Lake Nyos in Cameroon, because this country, according to the article, has all the right ingredients for exploding lakes: magma releasing CO2­ into deep lakes, a tropical climate and a trigger. Cloud had a speed of about 100 km per hour


    2. Was a large wave of water associated with this bizarre lake event? If so, how high did the wave go, and what kind of damage did it cause? (If any.)
    Whatever the cause, the result was catastrophic. In what is known as a Limnic Eruption, the lake literally exploded, sending a fountain of water over 300 feet into the air and creating a small tsunami. But far more deadly than the water was the gas.Some 1.2 cubic kilometers of CO2 was released in roughly 20 seconds. The cloud spread far and wide killing people who were as far as 25 km away from the lake.



    3. Given this kind of watery disaster, how high would the water go up into the sky from the event?
    A: 300 feet. Linked from Wikipedia: Evidence strongly suggested that a fountain of water and foam rose about 300 feet above the lake's surface. At one end, a wave at least 80 feet tall scoured the rocky shore.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A lake that kills 2000 people would hit the headlines. It won’t be necessarily an authoritative report but it could identify quickly the lake. This is my first point of triangulation.

    Query [headlines news international archives]

    Reuters A quick look suggests it has regional sites but not international and I don’t want to specify a country.

    UPI (United Press International) has an archive of headlines back to 1907. But I wasn’t able to get any archive results.

    I would have checked in Newspapers.com but subscription prices now too expensive.

    Next Library of Congress Newspapers Archives but the results were non-productive.

    So back to Google Search Query [deadly lake kills 2000]

    Results - http://bit.ly/srs_06_16_Deadly_Lake

    Headline [Lake Nyos Suffocated Over 1,746 People in a Single Night]

    Lake Nyos in Cameroon in Western Africa something triggered sudden release of carbon dioxide (CO2). and height of wave suggested “sending a fountain of water over 300 feet into the air”

    Smithsonian http://bit.ly/srs_6_16_Smithsonian_LakeNyos reports “the scientists observed that a lakeside promontory had been stripped of vegetation to a height of 262 feet, presumably by a carbon dioxide-driven waterspout rocketing into the air.”

    Google Scholar in search of science papers Query [Lake Nyos] http://bit.ly/srs_06_16_Sciencemag_Lake_Nyos

    The hypothesis is “that (i) the bulk of gas released was carbon dioxide that had been stored in the lake's hypolimnion, (ii) the victims exposed to the gas cloud died of carbon dioxide asphyxiation, (iii) the carbon dioxide was derived from magmatic sources, and (iv) there was no significant, direct volcanic activity involved.” Subscription required for further details.

    Further result in google search [Lake Nyos wave] http://bit.ly/28TKEZW

    “At the surface the vigorous release of gas generated a wave of water which swept into the valleys to the south.”
    Subscription required for further details.


    Book search [Natural Hazards in West and Central Africa edited by Samuel J. Freeth, Charles O. Ofoegbu, K. Mosto Onuoha]

    Page 70 “A wave had risen to a height of about 25 metres”

    Page 72 “damaged vegetation along the eastern and southern shores” but Page 73 “recovery began 2 or 3 weeks after the disaster”

    Nice to be back!










    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome back, Rosemary! ?Hablas Español?

      Delete
  7. gas welling up from a lake in Africa - I know.
    And Google or the comments above would give me the details.

    ReplyDelete
  8. 1. Can you find a lake somewhere in the world that caused the death of nearly 2000 people? How could such a thing happen? (Hint: This happened within the past 100 years, so it's relatively recently.)

    [killer lake gas]

    Lots of hits. I remembered this was in Africa but no idea of the details How Stuff Works has a good little write up of Lake Nyos: To elevate the intellectual level you required I searched New Scientist and found 31 articles over the years.

    NS: CO2, a by-product of volcanic activity in the rocks beneath, seeps constantly
    into the depths of Nyos, 200 metres below the surface. There it dissolves,
    building up over the years until something triggers it to bubble out of
    solution. Then the lake explodes.
    That’s what happened in 1986, with a force so great that many locals were
    convinced a nuclear bomb had gone off. The lake waters turned red as dissolved
    iron was sucked up to the surface, and a deadly mass of CO2
    —heavier than air—swept down the valley and smothered everyone and
    everything in its path up to 20 kilometres away. More than 1700 people died
    Here in Nyos, though, the waters aren’t mixing and the gas just keeps
    building up in a narrow layer at the lake bottom. It’s all a freak of nature:
    Nyos’s tropical surface water never gets much colder than the lake floor, so it
    doesn’t sink. The surrounding mountains shield the lake from cooling winds. And
    200 metres beneath the surface, the water at the bottom is so deep it doesn’t
    get stirred.

    “The odds of that are astronomical,” says George Kling, an ecologist,
    biochemist and limnologist from the University of Michigan.

    2. Was a large wave of water associated with this bizarre lake event? If so, how high did the wave go, and what kind of damage did it cause? (If any.)

    New Scientist magazine: Yes. To the south of the lake and in a small cove immediately east of the spillway, the wave had risen about 25 metres, flattening the vegetation
    as it streamed back to the lake and spreading a brown film over the plants.
    It had not affected all sides of the lake equally. On the west shore there
    is a vertical wall of rock which showed signs of recent rock falls that
    could also have been caused by a wave; at the southern end of this wall
    water had overtopped a promontory 75 metres high.

    3. Given this kind of watery disaster, how high would the water go up into the sky from the event? as above.

    But on the evening of Aug. 21, 1986, farmers living near the lake heard rumbling. At the same time, a frothy spray shot hundreds of feet out of the lake, and a white cloud collected over the water. From the ground, the cloud grew to 328 feet (100 meters) tall and flowed across the land. When farmers near the lake left their houses to investigate the noise, they lost consciousness.

    REally interesting and doable search. jon

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    Replies
    1. I started with a simple search [dangerous lakes].

      The first result was "10 Of The World's Most Dangerous Lakes - Daily News Dig". I clicked to read through. Out of all the 10, Lake Nyos seemed the most likely because it mentioned, "the Lake emitted an immense cloud of CO2 suffocating 1,700 people", and the rest didn't have as many casualties.

      For high-quality reliable sources, I went over to Google News to search [lake nyos]. Scrolling through a couple of pages of news results, I found articles from BBC, The Guardian, Scientific American, Nature.com, that all consistently confirmed that Lake Nyos is a dangerous Lake that killed around 2000 people.

      Later I started over the search. What if I had started off with [deadly lakes]? Would that make a difference? When I did that, the 2nd result was a Lake Nyos wikipedia page. Cool.

      Then I tried restarting with [lakes that kill]. Wow, first 5 results were all about Lake Nyos.

      If you go to NewScientist.com and search [deadly lake] (https://www.newscientist.com/search/?s=deadly+lake), you'll find Lake Nyos too, plus others. My favourite is "Deadly lake turns animals into statues". Stunning pictures. True story!

      Sophie San

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  9. The scientific explanation of why beer overflows
    CARLOS III UNIVERSITY OF MADRID
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-01/ciuo-tse012014.php
    Actual scientists at an actual university demonstrate and explain how foaming beer is same as Lake Nyos effect.
    Far from being just an interesting trick, this research may have very serious applications. "One of applications is the prediction of the quantity of gasses produced by the eruption of a volcano," indicates another of the researchers, Daniel Fuster, of the Institute D'Alembert. In fact, in 1986, Lake Nyos in Cameroon, which lies on top of a volcano, released between 100,000 and 300,000 tons of CO 2 in an explosion-like phenomenon. The gas expanded at a speed of 100 km/h, expelling the oxygen in a 25-kilometer radius, causing 1,700 fatalities
    A good vid is linked here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCnbs0NXF_4
    A revolting vid is linked here https://youtu.be/2u6P6gYC-9o showing same effects

    j

    ReplyDelete