Chad, Lake

Chad, Lake (chăd, chäd) [key], N central Africa. It lies mainly in Chad and Cameroon. Some 550 sq mi (1,425 sq km) in area in 2003, the shallow lake has been greatly reduced in size since the 1960s, when it varied seasonally from c.4,000 to c.10,000 sq mi (10,360–25,900 sq km) and was divided into north and south basins that extended into Nigeria and Niger. Since then the lake has recovered a little. The current lake is restricted to a portion of the south basin. The Chari River is the chief tributary of Lake Chad, which has no outlets. The reduction in the lake's size is due to a falloff in the monsoons that feed that lake's tributaries and a greatly increased use of water from the tributaries for irrigation.

Lake Chad was formerly even larger, attaining a depth of c.930 ft (285 m) in the 19th cent.; 60,000 years ago, it covered 150,000 sq mi (388,500 sq km), roughly the size of the Caspian Sea. The lake also has been much smaller than it was in the mid-20th cent., and probably has previously disappeared: The retreat of the shoreline has revealed sand dunes that were submerged until recently, and the fish found in the lake are adapted to river life.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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