We present a new palaeoenvironmental record of hydrological variability in Lake Baikal, based on re-modelled δ18Odiatom values of diatom silica (δ18Omodelled), where the residual contaminants are identified and compensated for using electron optical imaging and whole-sample geochemistry. δ18Omodelled interpretations are based on the balance between rivers with high δ18O values and rivers with low δ18O values. Isotopic variability is related to latitudinal differences in precipitation which feed these rivers. The δ18Omodelled record suggests that rather moist conditions prevailed in the Lake Baikal region during the latter stages of the Younger Dryas. Throughout the Holocene, episodes of low δ18Omodelled values are, in general, in good agreement with increases in percentage haematite-stained grains in North Atlantic sediments (indicative of ice-rafted debris events). Rivers with southerly catchments dominate fluvial input especially between c. 3.3 and 2 cal ka BP, concurrent with high precipitation in the Lake Baikal region. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.