Lake Chad

Now you see it, now you don’t

Lake Chad is a large shallow lake situated in the south-west of the country. The lake is semi-permanent, at its highest after the main rainy season in August.

Lake Chad shrinking, images courtesy NASA GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio and Landsat 7 Proj, via Wikimedia CommonsDuring the long dry season, the water level reduces, leaving stagnant pools between January and May.

However, even when the lake is at its highest level, it has reduced drastically in size over recent times. In the 1960s, Lake Chad covered an area of 25,000 square kilometres. Today, it is down to around 1,350 square kilometres, a 90% reduction in size. This reduction can be seen in satellite images taken by NASA (opposite), showing the lake in 1973, 1987, 1997 and 2001.

This dramatic contraction is largely due to the overuse of water for irrigation and the demands of an increasing population. But the lake is also threatened by changing climate conditions. Unless action is taken, the future of this vital water source is looking rather bleak.

Scientists believe a rise in water temperatures in the nearby Gulf of Guinea has shifted the flow of rain clouds southwards. Meteorologists say rain patterns are therefore changing across the Sahel and creating more frequent dry spells.