Lake Kivu is one of Africa’s strangest bodies of water. An unusual set of properties make it an intriguing subject for scientists, as well as a potential source of peril and prosperity for the millions of people living nearby.
Kivu doesn’t behave like most deep lakes. Typically, when water at the surface of a lake is cooled — by winter air temperatures or rivers carrying spring snowmelt, for example — that cold, dense water sinks, and warmer, less dense water rises up from deeper in the lake. This process, known as convection, generally keeps the surfaces of deep lakes warmer than their depths.
But at Lake Kivu, circumstances have conspired to block this mixing, giving the lake unexpected qualities — and surprising consequences.
Straddling the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kivu is one of a string of lakes lining the East African Rift Valley where
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