Official name : Republic of Chad
Area: 1,284,000 square kilometers (495,755 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Emi Koussi (3,415 meters/11,204 feet)
Lowest point on land: Bodélé Depression (160 meters/525 feet)
Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern
Time zone: 1 P.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 1,765 kilometers (1,097 miles) from north to south; 1,030 kilometers (640 miles) from east to west
Land boundaries: 5,968 kilometers (3,708 miles) total boundary length; Libya, 1,055 kilometers (655 miles); Sudan, 1,360 kilometers (845 miles); Central African Republic, 1,195 kilometers (743 miles); Cameroon, 1,094 kilometers (680 miles); Nigeria, 87 kilometers (54 miles); Niger, 1,175 kilometers (730 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
Chad is a landlocked country located in northern Central Africa, south of Libya. It extends north to south for more than 1,609 kilometers (1,000 miles) from the Tropic of Cancer, within the Sahara Desert. It is bordered by Libya to the north; Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon to the west; and Sudan and the Central African Republic to the east. With an area of 1,284,000 square kilometers (495,755 square miles), Chad is slightly more than three times the size of the state of California. The country is divided into fourteen prefectures (districts).
Chad claims no territories or dependencies.
From north to south, Chad has three climate zones. In the north, the Sahara Desert swings between extreme temperatures from day to night. In the central Sahel region, where the capital city of N'Djamena is located, the average daily temperatures range from 28°C to 42°C (73°F to 108°F) in April and from 14°C to 33°C (57°F to 91°F) in December. In the southern Sudan region, temperatures are more moderate. The most extreme temperatures in the country range from -12°C (10°F) to 50°C (122°F).
Like the temperatures, rainfall varies considerably from north to south. In the Sahara Desert, annual rainfall averages only 2.5 centimeters (1 inch). In the Sahel, however, average annual rainfall is about 76 centimeters (30 inches). In the Sudan region, average rainfall can be as high as 122 centimeters (48 inches).
Because of sparse rainfall and northern harmattan (hot, dry) winds, the country suffers from periodic droughts (periods with almost no rainfall). Locust plagues (large swarms of grasshoppers which destroy vegetation) are also a problem.
From the swamp-like regions surrounding Lake Chad and the Chari River system in western Chad, the central portion of the country dips into the shallow bowl of the Bodélé Depression. This basin extends for more than 804 kilometers (500 miles) to the plateaus, mountain ranges, and extinct volcanoes associated with the Tibesti Massif in northern Chad, a major landmark of the Sahara Desert.
Southeast of Lake Chad, an area of relatively flat, sedimentary land extends for several hundred miles before rising gently to the rolling plateaus and scattered low mountains of the eastern and southern border areas.
Chad is a landlocked country.
Lake Chad is the country's largest lake, shared by the bordering country of Cameroon. The size of the lake varies from season to season, depending on rainfall, from 10,360 to 25,900 square kilometers (4,000 to 10,000 square miles). It is divided into north and south basins with maximum depths of only about 7.6 meters (25 feet). Its chief tributary, the Chari River, extends southeastward to the Central African Republic. Lake Chad is the largest inland body of water on the Sahel.
A number of very shallow lakes are scattered across the flat plains surrounding Lake Chad. Lake Fitri to the southeast holds water year-round and is a major supplier of fish in the area. Most of the others, however, are temporary lakes that fill with rain or flood waters from the river system. By the end of the annual dry season, their waters have usually evaporated. One of the largest, the Bahr el Ghazal, receives some overflow from Lake Chad during its flood stage. The Lake Chad basin region contains great rolling dunes separated by very deep depressions. In some of these are found oases with groves of date palms.
The longest river in Chad is the Chari River (also called the Shari). At 1,200 kilometers (720 miles) long, it is also the longest river of interior drainage in Africa. It forms at the junction of the Gubingui and Bamingui Rivers, located at the border with the Central African Republic, and the Chari River then flows northwest into Lake Chad. The Logone River is its chief tributary. The Chari and Logone join near the city of N'Djamena.
Seasonal flooding of the rivers creates swamp-like wetlands in the surrounding areas. These wetlands are often used for irrigation.
There are no permanent streams in northern or central Chad. Summer rainfall collected by the various shallow wadis (seasonally dry streambeds) flows toward inland basins, but most of these streams disappear soon after the end of the brief rainy season.
Desert covers roughly one-half of the country, beginning with the Saharan Aozou strip along the northern border with Libya and extending into the central and southern Sahel and Sudan regions, which include the Lake Chad basin.
The Sahara Desert, which covers an area of 9,065,000 square kilometers (3,500,000 square miles) is the largest desert in the world. It covers the entire region of North Africa, from the Atlantic coast on the west to the Red Sea on the east. It borders the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlas Mountains in the north and extends into the southern region known as the Sahel.
Sahel is an Arabic word that means "shore." It refers to the 5,000-kilometer-long (3,125-mile-long) stretch of savannah that forms the shore, or edge, of the Sahara Desert. The Sahel spreads west to Mauritania and Senegal and east to Somalia.
Just beyond the Sahel is a region known as the Sudan Desert, south of the Sahara but still north of the equator. It extends from the Atlantic coast of the continent to the mountains of Ethiopia.
The southern Sudanic climate supports wide areas of savannah grasslands or prairies. Though only 3 percent of the land in Chad is considered arable, 36 percent supports permanent pastures. The Sahel region is covered with a carpet of brilliant green grass following the first rains of the season. These grasses, with thorn trees interspersed throughout, often exist for several months of the year before disappearing in the dry season. Palms and acacia trees also grow in this region.
Isolated hills found in the southwest region of the country do not generally exceed elevations of 457 meters (1,500 feet). These rocky outcroppings, which resemble piles of boulders, rise unexpectedly over the flat and gently rolling landscape, but they support only sparse vegetation.
The low-lying area of the Bodélé Depression is within the Sahel region. This area dips to 160 meters (525 feet) above sea level, the lowest point in the country. The basin was probably a part of Lake Chad in prehistoric times.
The highest mountains in Chad are found in the Tibesti Massif, located at the northern border of the country. This volcanic mountain range covers an area that is about 563 kilometers (350 miles) long. It is the highest mountain range in the Sahara Desert and includes seven main volcanoes. Of these, Emi Koussi is the highest peak in Chad.
Emi Koussi rises to an altitude of 3,415 meters (11,204 feet). Now an extinct volcano, it has a crater that is 19 kilometers (12 miles) wide and 1,219 meters (4,000 feet) deep.
There are no significant canyons or caves in Chad.
From the central bowl to southern Chad, the land slopes upward almost imperceptibly to rolling plateaus, which for the most part are less than 610 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level. The plateaus are marked here and there by mountains, such as the Guera Massif near Mongo, which has at least one peak above 1,493 meters (4,900 feet).
In 2000, the petroleum producers ExxonMobil and Chevron of the United States and Petronas of Malaysia began to develop the oil resources of southern Chad. The pipeline under construction will stretch 1,070 kilometers (670 miles) from the fields in Chad to a port on the Cameroon coast. It is scheduled to become operational in 2003.
Birmingham, David, and Phyllis Martin, eds. History of Central Africa . London: Longman, 1983.
Collelo, Thomas. Chad: A Country Study . Washington, DC: General Printing Office, 1990.
Decalo, Samuel. Historical Dictionary of Chad . 2nd ed. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1987.