Baikal World - information about lake Baikal lake and Baikal region
Origin & Development
Legends & Fairy tales • 
Earth's Crust Thickness • 
Underwater Relief • 
Landscapes • 
History & Formation • 
Seismic Activity • 
History of Lake Baikal
History of Explorations • 
Inhabitants & Settlers • 
First maps of Baikal • 
Archaeological Sites • 
Lake Baikal Climate
Introduction • 
Fogs • 
Winds & Waves • 
Ice Conditions • 
Fauna & Vegetation
Mammals • 
Baikal seal - Nerpa • 
Ichthyofauna • 
Invertebrates • 
Vegetation • 
Water of Lake Baikal
Colour • 
Transparency • 
Temperature • 
Pressure • 
Depth • 
Currents • 
Budget • 
Chemical Composition • 
Pollution • 
Recreational Areas
Circumbaikal Railway • 
Peschanaya Bays • 
Olkhon Island • 
Chivirkuysky Gulf • 
Wooden Irkutsk • 
Trans-Siberian Railway • 
People of Lake Baikal
People of Siberia • 
Buryat nation in Baikal • 
Russians in Baikal • 
Explanation of the local terms and geographical names at lake Baikal
Physical & Geographical Data:

Representation of quantitative data
of many studies on different problems of Lake Baikal:

Proper name - Baikal {by-kahl'}
Names used earlier - Lamu, Beihai, Tengis, Tengis-dalai, Baigal, Sacred sea, Angarsk sea, Tuha-sea.
»  click here to learn more about the names of Baikal

Time of formation - middle of the Palaeogene period, 25-30 million years ago. Baikal is the oldest and the largest freshwater lake in the world. Scientists are still debating the lakes origin.
»  more about Baikal origin and formation

Geographic position - between 51°29' - 55°46' north / 103°43' - 109°56' east

Location - Central Asia, Russia, in the south of Eastern Siberia, on the border between Irkutsk region and the Buryat Autonomous Republic, 1000 km inland. Lake Baikal lies between mountain ridges. (the Primorsky and the Baikalsky - are on the West side; the Barguzin - along the Eastern shore). It occupies the cleft between mountains.

Length (talweg) - 636km/395ml. The distance between Moscow & St. Petersburg.
Length of the shoreline - 2000 km/1243 ml

Width maximum - 79.5 km/50 ml (abeam of Onguren and Ust-Barguzin villages)
Width minimum - 25 km/16 ml
Width medium - 47.8 km/30 ml

Depth maximum - 1637 m (sounded 1642). The deepest among the world's lakes
The coordinates of this point are N 53 14' 59" - E 108 05' 11".

Depth average - 758 m

Depth of the Southern basin - maximum 1461 m / medium 843 m
The coordinates of this point are N 51 46' 32" - E 105 22' 03".

Depth of the Central Basin - maximum 1642 m / medium 854 m
The coordinates of this point are N 53 14' 59" - E 108 05' 11".

Depth of the Northern basin - maximum 904 m / medium 576 m
The coordinates of this point are N 54 20' 43" - E 108 42' 53".

The maximum sounded depth of 1642 m was measured by Hydrographic Service of Central Administration of Navigation and Oceanography and shown at the map "Lake Baikal", scale 1:500,000, published in 1992. Considering that the lake surface is at 455.5 m above sea level, the deepest point of Lake Baikal is at 1186.5 m below sea level. The depth of 1637 m - the maximum depth to the south-west of Izhimey Cape - was reached by manned submersible "Pisces" in 1992.

Area of the surface - 31722 km2 (Islands not included). The surface area has increased at 500 km2 after the construction of Irkutsk power station dam.
The total surface area of the Northern Basin is 13690 km2
The total surface area of the Central Basin is 10600 km2
The total surface area of the Southern Basin is 7432 km2

Area of Baikal's catchment (approx.) - 570000 km2
Areas of the Baikal bays:
Barguzinsky Bay - 791 km2
Chivirkuysky Bay - 268 km2
Proval Bay - 191 km2
Maloe More (including Mukhor Bay) - 1019 km2
Area (total) of 22 islands - 716 km2

Number of tributaries > 330 (most are minor). Largest rivers flowing to Baikal are Selenga, Upper Angara and Barguzin.
Number of outflowing rivers = 1 (Angara river)
Number of capes on Baikal = North-western coast 101 / South-eastern coast 73
Number of islands = 22. Olkhon island is the biggest.
Number of hot springs - about 35

Comparative features of different parts of Baikal lake:

Basin location
Area / km2
Volume / km3
Average depth / m
Max. depth / m
Southern Baikal
Central Baikal
1642* (1637)
Northern Baikal

The lake surface area above the sea level / altitude - 455.5 m
The lake bottom bellow the sea level - 1186.5 m

Water volume total - 23615,390 km3
Water volume total = 23,6 x 1015 liters
The total volume of water contained in the Northern Basin is 8192,070 km3
The total volume of water contained in the Central Basin is 9080,650 km3
The total volume of water contained in the Southern Basin is 6342,670 km3

Water value = 23 x 1015 $ US
Water level average annual changes under the natural conditions - 82 cm
Water level average annual after the construction of Irkutsk power station - 94 cm
Water level seasonal changes = 60 - 120 cm
Water level multiyear amplitude of level changes - 2,23 m
Water - fresh, hydrocarbonaceous and calcium, level of mineralization 96,6 mg/l. The water in Lake Baikal is good for drinking without any purification.
»  read more about the water of Baikal Lake

Baikal - the world's largest freshwater lake by volume. It is 20% of the world's and 80% of Community of Independent States' surface fresh waters. It has as much water as all 5 Great Lakes together. Such volume is exceeded only by the Caspian Sea (which has a lot of lake features). Scientists concluded that it would take all the rivers of the world - Volga, Don, Dneper and Yenisei, Ural and Ob, Ganges and Orinoco, Amazon and Thames, Seine and Oder - nearly one year to fill lake Baikal's basin, and it would take four hundred years for all the rivers, streams and brooks now flowing into the Siberian lake-sea. The water is so clear that the white-metal disk can be seen well at the depth of 40 metres, which compares to 15 metres transparency of the Baltic Sea.

Sediments' thickness: maximum - 8 km/5 ml
Sediments' volume - 46 000 km3

Thickness of the earth's crust - 38-42 km
Thickness of current conductive layer - 40 km
»  more about the earth's crust thickness

Precipitation. The average annual precipitation in the middle and the north of Baikal is 200-350 mm and 500-900 mm in the south.

Ice regime. Ice reaches a thickness of 50 cm - 2 metres. Lake Baikal usually freezes in early January and the ice breaks in May.
»  more about the ice conditions

Winds. The best known is the Sarma, named after the Sarma River. It blows with speeds of 15-40 metres/per second. Also Barguzin - east wind from the Barguzin valley. Kultuk - wind along the lake near its southern end. Verhovik - blows from mountains apices.
»  more about the winds of Baikal

Temperature characteristics:
- surface water t in the open lake during summer: +9 +13C
- surface water t near the shore +10 +14C and sometimes as high as +20C.
- average air t in January and February: -19C
- average air t in August about: +17C
»  more about the climate of Baikal

Seasonal changes of the temperature occur only in the upper zones and are not observed deeper than 200-250 m (+3C). Because of the great depth, the lake cools off very slowly and warms up equally slowly. Water temperatures never get very warm during summer. Lake Baikal influences the climate around it, making summers cooler and winters milder, than in Irkutsk. Lake Baikal acts as a cold source during summer and a warm source during autumn and early winter before it freezes over.

Fauna and Flora:
animals / mammals - more than 500 species

»  more about the wildlife of Baikal
fish / ichthyofauna - 53 species

»  more about the fish of Baikal
plants - about 1200 species.

»  more about Baikal vegetation

Baikal's exceptionally mineral-free waters support an unusual population of organisms, including many species endemic to the lake and its vents (84% found no where else on earth). Some of the plants and animals can be dated to prehistoric times. As a result, Baikal is a huge natural laboratory.

Other data:
Depth of earthquake hypocentres - 22-24 km
»  more about the seismic activity

Average slope of floor - 4
Tectonic rate of the Baikal shores' divergence = 0.7 - 2 cm/year
The ratio of the lake catchment area to its surface - 17.2
Underwater country - Baikalida (sunken settlements).

The Olkhon island:
length - 71.7 km
maximum width - 14 km
area - 700 km2
altitude above the sea level (Izhima mountain) - 1274 m

Archipelago of Ushkany Islands:
area of Big Ushkany Island - 15 km2
altitude above the lake's level - 211 m

Comparative characteristics of Lake Baikal and Tanganyika Lake in Africa. Both lakes are of the tectonic origin, and they have similar shapes. Lake Baikal is a "living lake", even at its deepest places and Lake Tanganyika is inhabited only in upper layers. Water of Lake Baikal is very rich with oxygen, it helps to preserve life.
Copyright © Baikal World. All rights reserved.