Initial results of U.S.-Soviet paleoclimate study of Lake Baikal


  • Lake Baikal Paleoclimate Project Members


Lake Baikal, a Miocene-age rift lake in southeastern Siberia, is an especially promising site for paleoclimate studies. Its high-latitude location (52°–56°N) makes it particularly sensitive to changes in solar insolation due to long-period variations in the Earth's orbital parameters. These variations are widely believed to be the main forcing functions of climate change in the Quaternary [Hays et al., 1976; Imbrie et al., 1984. The extreme continentality of the climate in southeastern Siberia makes Baikal an ideal location to study temporal changes in seasonality. Baikal is also one of the few high-latitude lakes that has not been glaciated during the last 1–2 million years [Grosswald, 1980], although a record of glaciation in its drainage basin is preserved in the lake sediments. Finally, Lake Baikal is the largest (23,000 km3), the deepest (1640 m), and one of the oldest extant lake systems in the world. The sedimentary section in the Baikal depression is more than 7 km thick and probably spans more than 15 million years [Hutchinson et al., 1992]. Accordingly, Lake Baikal sediments represent one of the longest and most complete continental climate records available anywhere in the world.