Relative changes in the level of Lake Baikal, amounting to hundreds of meters in Quaternary time, are well documented. Data presented here show that tectonic displacements of the lake outlet or former shoreline features are entirely sufficient to explain these relative lake-level changes. In contrast, the morphology and hydrology of the lake make its level hydrologically insensitive to climate change. Available evidence indicates that, throughout the past several hundred thousand years, Lake Baikal was a dilute, through-flowing lake controlled by the level of its outlet. On the basis of geologic data alone, climatic effects on lake level, whatever their magnitude, are difficult to separate from those caused by active rift tectonism. However, consideration of (1) the hydrologic budget of the lake and (2) the configuration of the outlet suggests that potential lake-level fluctuations due solely to climate change were less than about 2 m.

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