The comparative limnology of Lakes Nyos and Monoun, Cameroon

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Abstract

Lakes Nyos and Monoun are known for the dangerous accumulation of CO2 dissolved in stagnant bottom water, but the shallow waters that conceal this hazard are dilute and undergo seasonal changes similar to other deep crater lakes in the tropics. Here we discuss these changes with reference to climatic and water-column data collected at both lakes during the years following the gas release disasters in the mid-1980s. The small annual range in mean daily air temperatures leads to an equally small annual range of surface water temperatures (ΔT ~6–7 °C), reducing deep convective mixing of the water column. Weak mixing aids the establishment of meromixis, a requisite condition for the gradual buildup of CO2 in bottom waters and perhaps the unusual condition that most explains the rarity of such lakes. Within the mixolimnion, a seasonal thermocline forms each spring and shallow diel thermoclines may be sufficiently strong to isolate surface water and allow primary production to reduce PCO2 below 300 μatm, inducing a net influx of CO2 from the atmosphere. Surface water O2 and pH typically reach maxima at this time, with occasional O2 oversaturation. Mixing to the chemocline occurs in both lakes during the winter dry season, primarily due to low humidity and cool night time air temperature. An additional period of variable mixing, occasionally reaching the chemocline in Lake Monoun, occurs during the summer monsoon season in response to increased frequency of major storms. The mixolimnion encompassed the upper ~40–50 m of Lake Nyos and upper ~15–20 m of Lake Monoun prior to the installation of degassing pipes in 2001 and 2003, respectively. Degassing caused chemoclines to deepen rapidly. Piping of anoxic, high-TDS bottom water to the lake surface has had a complex effect on the mixolimnion. Algal growth stimulated by increased nutrients (N and P) initially stimulated photosynthesis and raised surface water O2 in Lake Nyos, but O2 removal through oxidation of iron was also enhanced and appeared to dominate at Lake Monoun. Depth-integrated O2 contents decreased in both lakes as did water transparency. No dangerous instabilities in water-column structure were detected over the course of degassing. While Nyos-type lakes are extremely rare, other crater lakes can pose dangers from gas releases and monitoring is warranted.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title The comparative limnology of Lakes Nyos and Monoun, Cameroon
DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-36833-2_18
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Springer
Publisher location Berlin
Contributing office(s) Menlo Park Science Center
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Volcanic Lakes
First page 401
Last page 425
Country Cameroon
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N