Coping With Lake Kivu, East Africa: Workshop on Tropical Rift Lake Systems: Integrated Volcanogenic, Tectonic, Biogeochemical, and Geohazard Assessment of Lake Kivu; Gisenyi, Rwanda, 13–15 January 2010



Situated in the volcanic highlands of the East African Rift Valley's western branch, Lake Kivu contains one of the most unusual and fascinating aquatic ecosystems on the planet. Bottom waters in the 480-meter-deep lake are warmer and saltier than its surface waters. The concentrations of dissolved carbon dioxide and methane are so high in the deep water that catastrophic overturn, an abrupt upwelling of deep water and gas driven by the buoyancy of expanding gas bubbles as they rise from the depths, could well happen in the coming century. Were this to occur, human fatalities would likely number in the hundreds of thousands—a disaster similar to what occurred when Lake Nyos (Cameroon) in 1986 emitted a large amount of carbon dioxide, causing hundreds of local residents to suffocate—but with orders-of-magnitude more gas release.