5 - Lake Nyos, The Invisible Killer Lake Of Cameroon

A GIS based map indicating the arch of volcanic islands and mountain backbone of Cameroon. The red line indicates the Cameroon border. Note the volcanic islands in the ocean.

Recently I had the opportunity of visiting the Crater Lake region of Cameroon in the northwest province of the country. A series of craters and crater lakes dominate the mountain backbone of Cameroon. This specific lake became a crater of enormous interest due to the incredible effect of the spread of carbon dioxide through upwelling into the lake water body itself which then spills down the surrounding valleys, killing people and cattle. It took quite a while before scientists could determine the cause of this natural disaster. This NASA article explains the events before and after very well.

The arch of craters forming the Cameroonian highlands originated from before the breakup of Gondwanaland but only became active some 60M years ago. The string of craters originated over a hotspot in the crust of the earth. This is a well-known landform on the face of the globe and was formed when the continental plates moved across the hotspot in the crust of the earth, leaving behind relic craters over time. Cameroon has many of these crater lakes in the arch of mountains.


Lake Nyos is indicated by the small blue dot in the centre of the mountain chain. The red line indicates the north Cameroon boundary

Prof Willem van Riet

 Ms Grace Mbah and Prof van Riet at the crater lake Nyos


Further reading:

Earth Observatory: Lake Nyos, Cameroon

WWF: Cameroon Crater LakesCameroon Crater Lakes