Huge Ice-age Lakes in Russia


During an early phase of the Last Ice Age (Weichselian, Valdaian), about 90 000 yr ago, an ice sheet formed over the shallow Barents and Kara seas. The ice front advanced on to mainland Russia and blocked the north-flowing rivers (Yenissei, Ob, Pechora, Dvina and others) that supply most of the freshwater to the Arctic Ocean. The result was that large ice-dammed lakes were formed between the ice sheet in the north and the continental water divides to the south. Here we present reconstructions and calculations of the areas and volumes of these lakes. The lake on the West Siberian Plain was nearly twice as large as the largest lake on Earth today. The well-mapped Lake Komi in northeast Europe and a postulated lake in the White Sea Basin would also rank before the present-day third largest lake. The lakes overflowed towards the south and thus the drainage of much of the Eurasian continent was reversed. The result was a major change in the water balance on the continent, decreased freshwater supply to the Arctic Ocean, and increased freshwater flow to the Aral, Caspian, Black and Baltic seas. A sudden outburst of the lakes' water to the Arctic Ocean when the ice sheet thinned is postulated. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date



16, Issue 8

Journal Title

Journal of Quaternary Science




Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Journal Article