Africa > West Africa > Niger > Niger Geography Profile

Niger: Niger Geography Profile

2013/11/09

Niger, Bouza, traditional village

Niger is located in Western Africa in the Northern Hemisphere. It covers a surface area of 1 267 000 Km²

It is bounded: 

- by Algeria and Libya to the North;
- by Chad to the East;
- by Nigeria and Benin to the South;
- by Mali and Burkina Faso to the West.

RELIEF

Niger covers a vast land area of 1 267 000 Km² located on the western edge of the African continental shelf (continental part of the earth’s crust, made of strongly granitised and metamorphised ancient ground) and its relief offers little contrasts. The uniformity of the vegetation reinforces the monotony of the landscape. Altitude varies only slightly from the South West plains towards the Aïr Ranges in the North East. Most of the territory consists in tablelands, next to mountains and plains.

North East Tablelands: covering an area of over 120 000 Km², they range between 800 and 1 000 meters in altitude. They hem the endoreic plain (i.e. landlocked basin) of Madama in a kind of horseshoe shape and some picturesque hills might be found before them. The tablelands have been much eroded by ancient water streams, which curved impressive canyons.
Western and Southern Low Tablelands: ranging between 200 and 500 metres high, they form the Oulliminden basin and its fringes. The ancient Azawak fossil network has cut them off to the North, the river valleys and its ancient tributaries, the “dallols”, to the West and the often wide and deep Goulbis to the South East, especially in the Ader Doutchi. To the far Western part are the Liptako and Zarmaganda tablelands.

The Aïr Mountains: stretching over 400 Kms to the North of the 17th parallel, covering an area of 65 000 Km². The massif consists of a vast tableland ranging between 500 and 900 meters high, predominantly flat. It is mostly made of rocky deserts or stony surfaces, interrupted by volcanic formations, peaks and rocky outcrops spreading over a few hundred meters. There are also some fairly uniform landscapes, covered with stones and boulders, and finally some smaller but steep mountains, whose slopes are cut by many gullies.

Around fifteen high peaks that are easily recognisable rise above this tableland, lined up in a North to South direction.
The highest peak of the Aïr and Niger is found in the Bagazane mountains. Named Indoukâl-n-Taghès, it is an old, extinct volcano reaching 2 020 M in altitude.

Plains: There are a few perfect examples, where the water system is totally flat. These plains may vary in surface area: the Talak plain, narrow but extending over 80 Km at the foot of the Western side of the Aïr mountains and the Irhazer plain to the South are both worth mentioning.

Other examples include the Chad basin, a vast sedimentary plain, and the Ténéré region, where an old stream, the Tafassâsset falls down the Hoggar and disappears in the dunes of a vast desert.

Climate: Situated between 11°37’ North latitude and 23°33’ and 6° and 16° East longitude, 700 Km North of the Gulf of Guinea, 1900 Km East from the Atlantic coast and 1 200 Km South of the Mediterranean sea, Niger is one of the warmest places on Earth, crossed by the thermic Equator.

Niger has a dry tropical climate. It is a continental country, with a tropical climate, South of the Tropic of Cancer. It could be said that three quarters of the territory belong to the Sahara, meaning that Niger is a country that has many physical constraints, mainly climatic ones.

Since high atmospheric winds determine most physical phenomena on the ground, three seasons may be observed which are: the rainy season, the dry season and the hot season.
Each season last for almost four months: the hot season in March, April, May and June, the rainy season in June, July, August and September, and the dry and cold season in October, November, December, January and February.

The very dry continental wind called Harmattan blows continuously from October to April, and is characteristic of the hot season.
The Guinean “monsoon” is responsible for the rain that falls during three months of the year, from July to September, with a humidity peak in August.

Rainfalls are extraordinarily regular, and downpours may last for hours.
Annual average temperatures are very high, ranging between 27°C and 29°C, with two maximums in May/June and September/October.

From South to North, we come across three different natural environments, which are symbolic of the colours of Niger’s flag:
- The Sudan region, lush with vegetation
- The Sahelian region, scattered with steppe
- The Saharan region, formed by orange-ochre-coloured sandy and rocky deserts.
Niger is divided into four natural areas, which are:
- The deserts: in the Northern half of the country where the vegetation is scarce or non-existent, apart from the occasional oasis,
- The grassy steppe: devoted to rearing cattle, rich in pastures during the rainy season,
- The bushy steppe: suitable for agriculture and rearing cattle,
- The savannah region: the wettest part of all, this region is the most suitable for agriculture. It boasts a great wealth of fauna and flora.).

Location: 

Western Africa, southeast of Algeria

Geographic coordinates: 

16 00 N, 8 00 E

Map references: 

Africa

Area comparative: 

slightly less than twice the size of Dexas

Land boundaries Total: 

5,697 km

Land boundaries Note: 

Climate: 

desert; mostly hot, dry, dusty; tropical in extreme south

Terrain: 

predominately desert plains and sand dunes; flat to rolling plains in south; hills in north

Natural resources: 

uranium, coal, iron ore, tin, phosphates, gold, molybdenum, gypsum, salt, petroleum

Natural hazards: 

recurring droughts

Environment - current issues: 

overgrazing; soil erosion; deforestation; desertification; wildlife populations (such as elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe, and lion) threatened because of poaching and habitat destruction

Geography note: 

landlocked; one of the hottest countries in the world; northern four-fifths is desert, southern one-fifth is savanna, suitable for livestock and limited agriculture