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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