Long Durational Natural Phenomenon

Existence of Lake Baikal

Duration: 25–30 Million Years 

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Cover photograph CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Nadezhda Tsareva

Lake Baikal is a rift lake in the south of the Russian region of Siberia, between the Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the southeast. Baikal's age is estimated at 25–30 million years, making it one of the most ancient lakes in geological history. It is unique among large, high-latitude lakes in that its sediments have not been scoured by overriding continental ice sheets. U.S. and Russian studies of core sediment in the 1990s provide a detailed record of climatic variation over the past 250,000 years. Longer and deeper sediment cores are expected in the near future. Lake Baikal is furthermore the only confined freshwater lake in which direct and indirect evidence of gas hydrates exists.

Photograph CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Nadezhda Tsareva

It is the freshwater lake with greatest volume in the world, containing roughly 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water, and at 1,642 meters, the deepest. It is also among the clearest of all lakes, and thought to be the world's oldest lake. It is the seventh-largest lake in the world by surface area, and is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two-thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world. Baikal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

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