The upper 40 m of Lake Nyos is bounded on the north by a narrow dam of poorly consolidated pyroclastic rocks, emplaced during the eruptive formation of the Lake Nyos maar a few hundred years ago. This 50-m-wide natural dam is structurally weak and is being eroded at an uncertain, but geologically alarming, rate. The eventual failure of the dam could cause a major flood (estimated peak discharge, 17000 m3/s) that would have a tragic impact on downstream areas as far as Nigeria, 108 km away. This serious hazard could be eliminated by lowering the lake level, either by controlled removal of the dam or by construction of a 680-m-long drainage tunnel about 65 m below the present lake surface. Either strategy would also lessen the lethal effects of future massive CO2 gas releases, such as the one that occurred in August 1986. ?? 1988 Springer-Verlag.