Ice melting on Lake Baikal (May 4th, 2012), taken from the
Lake Baikal in Russia is covered by a thick layer of ice for several
months every year. The ice begins to form in late December, and by
mid-January it usually covers the whole lake. In spring [March –
May], the ice begins to slowly melt. Patches of open water appear in
the southern part of the lake in early May (shown here), and move
progressively northwards. By late June, the northern part of the
lake is finally clear of ice.
This image shows ice breaking up in the central part of the lake.
Drifting ice and large patches of open water can be seen in the
south. Ice often lasts longer in the extreme south-eastern part of
Lake Baikal, as that part of the lake is shallow.
Along the coasts is fast ice. Fast ice is anchored or
fastened to the shore, and doesn’t move with the winds or currents.
It usually lasts longer than ice that forms over deeper water.
The village of Listvyanka, on the south-eastern coast of Lake Baikal,
has kept records of ice formation and breakup since 1869. These
records show that ice break-up near the village occurs earlier now
than in the past. In the 1870s, thawing would begin around May 10th,
but now it begins in late April. The most rapid change was between
1869 and 1920, and the date of ice break-up has remained fairly
constant at Listvyanka – however, ice formation begins later on in
the winter than it used to, so the overall ice cover of the lake does
not last as long as in the past.
Analysis of satellite data from 1992 to 2004 shows that in the
northern and central part of the lake, ice has been breaking up later
and lasting longer overall since 1992. In the southern part of the
lake, ice is forming later in the winter, but breaking up at around
about the same time, which is consistent with the records from
There are many factors that can affect how long Lake Baikal’s ice
lasts. These include air temperature, wind patterns, lake currents,
clouds, the amount of snowfall, and the volume of river water
discharged into the lake.