Comparison of sedimentation patterns, basement subsidence, and faulting histories in the north and central basins of Lake Baikal aids in developing an interbasinal seismic stratigraphy that reveals the early synrift evolution of the central portion of the Baikal rift, a major continental rift system. Although there is evidence that the central and northern rift basins evolved at approximately the same time, their sedimentation histories are markedly different. Primary sediment sources for the initial rift phase were from the east flank of the rift; two major deltas developed adjacent to the central basin: the Selenga delta at the south end and the Barguzin delta at the north end. The Barguzin River system, located at the accommodation zone between the central and north basins, also fed into the southern part of the north basin and facilitated the stratigraphic linkage of the two basins.
A shift in the regional tectonic environment in the mid Pliocene(?) created a second rift phase distinguished by more rapid subsidence and sediment accumulation in the north basin and by increased subsidence and extensive faulting in the central basin. The Barguzin delta ceased formation and parts of the old delta system were isolated within the north basin and on Academic Ridge. These isolated deltaic deposits provide a model for the development of hydrocarbon plays within ancient rift systems. In this second tectonic phase, the dominant sediment fill in the deeper and more rapidly subsiding north basin shifted from the flexural (eastern) margin to axial transport from the Upper Angara River at the north end of the basin.