The Ice of Lake Baikal in southern Siberia
Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, remains covered with ice for almost five months a year. Every winter as the temperature plummets below zero, the surface of the world’s largest freshwater lake freezes. But ice doesn’t begin to form until the middle of winter, long after the beginning of severe Siberian frosts. When other rivers and lakes froze long before in the year, Baikal still resists ice formation. Its cold waves break against the shore and decorate the seaboard rocks with icy patterns. But when it starts freezing, typically in the beginning of January, it stays frozen for the next five months. The ice on average is about a meter thick allowing cars and trucks to be easily driven over. The thickest sections can be up to two meters thick.
The ice heats up during the day and cools at night. The huge swing in temperature causes the ice to crack. These cracks are usually not more than 0.5 to 1 meter wide, but sometimes they can be up to 4 meters wide and stretch for hundreds of meters.
Another peculiarity of Lake Baikal’s ice are the “hummocks” — heaps of ice splinters that are pushed out onto the surface. Hummocks are formed during freezing when not strong enough ice is smashed by wind and is thrown out on the shore. They usually form along trough cracks or along-shore and can be 10-12 meters high. The hummocks glow in the sunlight like huge pieces of emerald.
Lake Baikal is truly interesting. It is the world’s deepest and largest freshwater lake by volume, containing roughly 20% of the world’s unfrozen surface fresh water. It is considered among the world’s clearest lakes and the world’s oldest lake at 25 million years. It is also the seventh-largest lake in the world by surface area. The crescent shaped lake is located in an ancient rift valley, and is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which exist nowhere else in the world.
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