Frozen Lake Baikal

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Lake Baikal, the world's oldest and deepest freshwater lake, was still almost completely frozen in Spring 2016.

Date & Time
19 March 2016 00:00–09:00 UTC and 22 April 05:42 UTC
Himawari-8, Suomi-NPP, Terra
Natural Color RGB, True Color RGB, Visible, Near Infrared

By HansPeter Roesli (Switzerland)

Due to particular microclimates, sometimes natural ice rinks can occur in an otherwise moderate winter — Lake Baikal, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, has such a microclimate.

Figure 1
Figure 1: SNPP VIIRS Natural Color RGB, 19 March 05:54 UTC

In March 2016 the ice surface was kept clear thanks to a combination of sparse winter snowfall (around 10 mm/month); the snow that did fall not adhering to the very cold and smooth lake ice (average winter temperature -10 °C to -20 °C), and winds blowing off the snow.

Thus, Lake Baikal became a ready-made rink for skating enthusiasts, as can be seen in this video of a person skating in the central basin off the big island of Olkhon on 19 March 2016 (MP4, 52 MB). The video was taken close to noon (local time), by Beat Kilcher.

On the VIIRS Natural Color RGB at 375m spatial resolution (Figure 1), the area where the skating took place is marked by the small red square.

Due to a high-pressure ridge, shown in the analysis, 19 March 03:00 UTC, the weather conditions were excellent for skating — sunny and calm.

The RGB composite image from the AHI imager on Himawari-8, 19 March 03:10 UTC (Figure 2) shows the weather conditions at the time when the skating movie was taken (at the position of the red dot).

Figure 2
Figure 2: Himawari-8 RGB composite, 19 March 03:10 UTC

The combination of the bands VIS0.64/VIS0.86/NIR2.3 identifies the snow-covered northern part of the lake and adjacent mountain ranges (cyan), the snow-free central basin (dark blue) and some cirrus veils (semi-transparent white).

The cloud situation can be better seen on the animated daytime sequence of the same type of RGB composite, 19 March 00:00–09:00 UTC (MP4, 5 MB).

The distribution of snowed-over and clear ice along the 600 km long lake (snow-free central parts and snowed-over northern and southern tips) appears to be quite robust over the years, as shown by MODIS True Color RGB images from the Terra satellite taken at the same date from 2013 to 2016 (Figure 3).

A month later, on 22 April at 05:42 UTC, both the Natural Color and True Color images from SNPP VIIRS showed there was still a considerable ice covering on the lake.

Figure 3
Figure 3: MODIS True Color RGB, 19 March 2013 to 2016
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