Lakes have been used for thousands of years for travel, commerce, and in recent centuries for recreation. From commercial fishing to shipping, modern industry and power generation, lakes large and small have benefitted us the world over. The largest lakes take on a life of their own, creating an ocean-like atmosphere with large sustainable fisheries and major ports. This led us to research a question you may be curious about…
What is the largest lake in the world?
The Caspian Sea is the largest lake in the world, and it’s not even close. Surrounded by Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, it has been used for commerce for millennia. It is as large as Germany or Japan are, and is estimated to hold around 40% of the world’s inland water.
The Caspian Sea is actually salty, having been a part of the larger network of oceans in the distant past. It’s about half as salty as the open ocean is though, at about 1.2% salinity.
There are 3 distinct regions: The North Caspian which is a shallow shelf, The Middle Caspian which has an average depth of 620 feet, and the Southern Caspian which has oceanic depths reaching over 3,000 feet below the surface.
The Caspian Sea is famous for its caviar, which is the roe (eggs) harvested from sturgeon. There is also a lot of oil production around the area, which has promoted industry but also resulted in massive water pollution.
What is the largest lake in the world by surface area?
The largest lake in the world by surface area is the Caspian Sea, at an estimated 143,000 square miles (or 371,000 square kilometers). That is nearly five times the surface area of the second largest lake, Lake Superior in North America.
Here is the list of the top 5 largest lakes in the world by surface area, including 3 of the American Great Lakes:
- Caspian Sea, Asia (143,000 mi²)
- Lake Superior, North America (31,700 mi²)
- Lake Victoria, Africa (26,600 mi²)
- Lake Huron, North America (23,000 mi²)
- Lake Michigan, North America (22,000 mi²)
What is the largest lake in the world by volume?
The largest lake in the world by volume is the Caspian Sea, with over 18,000 cubic miles of water (or 78,000 cubic kilometers). Since volume is surface area multiplied by depth, it’s no surprise that the Caspian Sea is the top of the list again. However, the next few lakes might surprise you, as only one of the American Great Lakes makes the cut.
Here are the top 5 largest lakes in the world by volume:
- Caspian Sea, Asia (18,800 mi³)
- Lake Baikal, Asia (5,700 mi³)
- Lake Tanganyika, Africa (4,500 mi³)
- Lake Superior, North America (2,800 mi³)
- Lake Malawi, Africa (1,850 mi³)