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Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world and is considered the world’s oldest. It is also the second most voluminous lake in the world, but the most voluminous freshwater lake. It has an average depth of 744.4 m and contains roughly 20% of the world’s surface fresh water. It is located in the south of the Siberian region of Russia. It also has a deepest point of 1,642 m. the lake is over 25 million years old and was formed as a rift valley . It has a surface area of 31,722 km2. Baikal is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals and two thirds of those are unique to the area.
Lake Baikal was created by the Baikal Rift zone. This is an area where the crust of the earth is pulling apart. This has made the lake 636 km long and 79 km wide. This has also given Lake Baikal the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in Asia and the deepest lake in the world. The bottom of the lake is 1,186.5 m below sea level, but the rift floor is under 7 km of sediment so is nearly 11 km below sea level and the deepest rift on Earth. The rift continues to grow by 2 cm per year. It is unique because its sediments have not been scoured by continental ice sheets. Studies of core sediment provided 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 the only confined fresh water lake in which direct and indirect evidence of gas hydrates exist. It contains 27 islands. The lake is fed by as many as three hundred and thirty rivers including the Selenga, Barguzin, and the Upper Angara. It is drained through a single outlet, the Angara river.
Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world, holds many geological and biological records. An entire team of scientists could spend their entire careers studying the lake and leave new information for the next generation to find.
If you’d like more info on Lake Baikal, check out Lake Baikal as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. And here’s a link to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast all about planet Earth. Listen here, Episode 51: Earth.