The Big List of Nasty Disasters: Part Nine – How to Survive a Limnic Eruption

You and your buddy Jack are sitting at the lake waiting for a trout to bite. It’s the perfect day. A limnic eruption is the farthest thing from your mind. There’s a gentle breeze from the north. The sun is shining. The temperature is “just right.” You pop the top on a cold one, sit back and enjoy the perfection.

Suddenly, you see bubbles emerge from the center of the lake, you smell rotten eggs and feel warm. Seconds later it feels as though something has sucked all of the oxygen off the face of the planet.

You fight for air, but there is none. You look around for a cause but see nothing.  The pain is increasing. “Why can’t I breath?” You start to panic.  You look at Jack. His eyes are bulging, and he is pointing at his throat with one hand while raising the other in the air as if to gesture, why? What’s going on? You think, maybe I can make it back to the truck, but it’s over a mile away. You take a few steps in that direction. Now, you are light-headed and dizzy. Two minutes later everything goes black.

This type of sudden asphyxiation may sound like science fiction fantasy; however, this disaster is what happened to 1700 people and 3500 livestock near Lake Nyos in 1986.

Lake Nyos, shortly after a limnic eruption
Lake Nyos, shortly after a limnic eruption

What is a Limnic Eruption

A limnic eruption is a disaster so spectacular it will take your breath away. It occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) suddenly erupts from deep lake water. The eruption forms a gas cloud that can suffocate wildlife, livestock, and humans as well as cause a tsunami in the lake.

Here’s the good news. Scientist’s believe that limnic eruptions are very rare.  In fact, there are only two known cases, Lake Nyos in 1986 and Lake Monoun in 1984. However, the geological evidence does indicate that many unrecorded limnic eruptions may have occurred.

What Causes a Limnic Eruption

You can think of a limnic eruption in this way. When gas (CO2) from under a lake, either from volcanic activity of decomposition of organic material, is released, it dissolves into solution just like in a soft drink. At that point, all it takes is a trigger, such as volcanic activity, earthquake, wind, or a rain storm to spark a release of gas — just like when you open a can of soda.

When this happens, the process forms a column of gas, the water at the bottom is pulled up by suction, and the movement releases CO2 into the air. This process can also displace significant amounts of water to form a tsunami.

How to Survive a Limnic Eruption

Never go near a lake!

Okay, that’s not a real solution, especially for those who love to hunt and fish. The good news is that scientists monitor most lakes in the United States. So, most likely you will receive a warning in advance of potential danger.

However, if you do find yourself in such an eruption, here are a couple of things you can do.

Take note of a sudden feeling of warmth or the smell of rotten eggs.

Survivors of the Lake Monoun eruption reported a smell of rotten eggs and feeling warm before passing out. This makes sense because, at high concentrations, carbon dioxide acts as a sensory hallucinogenic.

Don’t try to breathe!

When you try to breathe CO2 it causes CO2 poisoning — so hold your breath.

Don’t try to run on foot.

The Lake Nyos eruption killed some people as far as 16 miles away.

Drive away from the lake and to higher ground.

Because CO2 is denser than air, it has a tendency to sink to the ground while pushing breathable air up.

Carry a Can or Two of Boost Oxygen

Short of carrying a heavy tank of supplemental oxygen, Boost Oxygen is your next best bet. It’s a fantastic product that can give you oxygen when you need it most.

Boost will not only help with a limnic eruption, it will also provide a boost of energy while hiking at higher elevations, or engaging in other strenuous activities. It is even used by those who suffer from emphysema and COPD. It works so well that some have reported being able to delay the need for carrying a supplemental oxygen tank.

Likewise, others have reported that it has helped heal lower respiratory infections.

Pretty cool stuff, and at 14.4 ounces there’s no reason not to include a can in your survival pack. The only problem is that you will be tempted to take a shot now and then — even when you don’t need it — because it will make you feel so good. 🙂 I highly recommend it. You can get a can or two here.

Please join in the discussion and leave a comment. Have you used Boost or a similar oxygen product? I want to hear about it!

BACK TO INDEX: The Big List of Nasty Disasters and How to Prepare: Part One

  • Show Comments

  • vocalpatriot

    I had a limnic eruption last tuesday. My wife slapped me on the arm and groaned “that’s gross, you pig!”

  • Justin Cummins

    I just shared what you said with my wife and she slapped me on the face and said: “Stop being vulgar, you pig.” Lol

  • Angel

    It is so scary how in a limnic eruption you just can’t breathe and you so likely to die

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