Baikal Irkutsk Trans Siberian

Baikal Ice 

Due to the large volume of water Lake Baikal accumulates warmth during summer months, and it takes several months to cool it during fall which prevents the lake from freezing over. Normally Baikal freezes in January, sometimes in extremely cold or warm winters it may freeze in in December or early February respectively.

In January the water temperature of Lake Baikal may become already below freezing point even though the lake is not frozen yet because of the winds and waves constantly mixing water. The overcooled water forms pieces of grained ice with crystals having shapes of dices, needles, lentils, peas ranging from 1-2 to 10-20 mm (up to ¾ inches) in diameter. When this rustle mass gets frozen it forms turbid ice of grain structure.

Other years when the weather in January is calm and frosty the lake freezes over faster, and the vast fields of transparent ice are formed. In some places near the shore if the ice is free of snow the bottom of the lake and its inhabitants can be seen at small depth. It may even seem frightening to walk on such ice at first, due to its transparence it is difficult to judge of its thickness.

Baikal winter ice is very strong. It is possible to drive along it by cars and trucks. During extremely cold winters ice may be over 1.5 m (5 ft) thick. During the Russian-Japanese war in 1904-1905 when the Circum Baikal loop was not yet finished the railway tracks were laid over the ice which made it possible to carry 2,300 carriages of weapons and 65 locomotives by horse traction during 17 days. This road functioned during 3 months.

At the end of winter because of daily temperature fluctuations cracks appear on ice that can be several kilometers long and up to 2 or 3 meters (6-9 ft) wide. The ice is warmed by the first sun rays in early April then it starts melting. At the moment when the strong spring winds start blowing the ice goes to pieces.

It takes a long period of time to warm the water and melt all the ice. Ice usually melts in May and the water reaches its maximum temperature of only +12..+15 C (+54..+64 F) in August. In the north of Baikal in the second half of June some pieces of ice may be still floating, that is why in June the water in Baikal is often colder than in December.

The seasonal temperature changes of water occur only in the upper layer of water of 50 meters (165 ft). At the depth of more than 50 meters the temperature of water is constant all year round and does not exceed +3.5 C (38 F).

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Lake Baikal Listvyanka Olkhon Circum Baikal Railway

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