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Lake Chad

Lake Chad (French: Lac Tchad) is a historically large, shallow, endorheic lake in Africa, which has varied in size over the centuries. According to the Global Resource Information Database of the United Nations Environment Programme, it shrank by as much as 95% from about 1963 to 1998, but "the 2007 (satellite) image shows significant improvement over previous years." Lake Chad is economically important, providing water to more than 30 million people living in the four countries surrounding it (Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria) on the edge of the Sahara. It is the largest lake in the Chad Basin.

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Until Recently Sahara Desert Hosted Largest Freshwater Lake

The Sahara desert is believe it or not actually recent in origin. The borders of Lake Chad show how dramatically the region's climate has changed. Only 6000 years ago this inland sea was larger than the Great Lakes combined making it the largest freshwater lake in the world! The existence of a giant "paleolake" is well-established but a recent paper has mapped its changes over a course of 15000 years revealing the North African climatic history in the process. At its largest size the lake was almost the size of the Caspian Sea! Most of the reduction is a result of changes in the West African monsoon in addition to deforestation and human consumption. Pictured is a fossilized fish that is evidence that the lake was once enormous.

Contributed by Sam Feldstone

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