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Magma Composition at Volcanoes

Magma composition determines the type of eruption a volcano may have.

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Lake Nyos
Teacher Contributed

The Lake Nyos Mystery


Lake Nyos Disaster

Student Exploration

Have you ever heard of a disaster that kills thousands overnight without anyone being able to really detect the cause? Check out what happened at Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1986:


What do you think caused this to happen?

Extension Investigation

1. Using some background information (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/savageplanet/01volcano/01/indexmid.html), come up with a timeline of events that lead to that devastating night in 1986. What do you think caused the release of the built up carbon dioxide gas? Would you expect the composition of the magma to be higher in silica? Why or why not? What type of eruption would you expect?

2. Here is a quick demonstration lab that you can do to look at what happened:

3. Is this scenario unique? Could this mysterious and deadly experience happen somewhere else in the world? What factors must be present for this disaster to occur? Here is a comparison between Lake Nyos and Mammoth Mountain in California: http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/factsheets/program/Prog064.pdf

Compare and contrast Lake Nyos with Mammoth. What factors do they have in common? Would you expect to be able to find these common factors at other volcanic sites?

Resources Cited

National Geographic.http://natgeotv.com/uk/killer-fog/videos/tragedy-at-lake-nyos

Savage Planet.PBS.http://www.pbs.org/wnet/savageplanet/01volcano/01/indexmid.html

Rod Benson. You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xuAS9Z1e_4

National Energy Technology Laboratory.Office of Fossil Energy.Department of Energy.http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/factsheets/program/Prog064.pdf

Connections to other CK-12 Subject Areas


  • Chemical Reactions?

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