Deglacial methane emission signals in the carbon isotopic record of Lake Baikal

Alexander A. Prokopenko, Douglas F. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Changes in the concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases constitute an important part of global climate forcing. Here we present the first continental evidence for climatically caused changes in a methane gas hydrate reservoir. The organic carbon stable isotope record from Lake Baikal during the past 130 000 years registers regular emissions of isotopically light carbon by the occurrence of distinct negative shifts of 3-5‰ at every major orbitally forced cold-to-warm climatic transition during the past 130 000 years, including marine oxygen isotope stage boundaries 6/5e, 5d/5c, 5b/5a and 2/1. We conclude that these emissions were associated with decomposition of sedimentary clathrates, widespread in the Baikal basin. Among potential hypotheses to account for these methane episodes, the most probable appears to be hydrate dissociation due to deglacial warming of lake water. We estimate that as much as 12-33 Tg of methane could have been released with each episode. By recording the systematically recurring episodes of massive methane clathrate decomposition closely linked with the northern hemisphere temperatures during major orbital warmings, the new Baikal δ13C record provides further evidence for the potential involvement of clathrate reservoir in rapid deglacial rises of atmospheric methane levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-147
Number of pages13
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 30 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was implemented as a part of Baikal Drilling Project and supported by US National Science Foundation Grant EAR-9614770, Department of Geological Sciences, University of South Carolina, and the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. We would like to acknowledge the efforts of the research groups of the Institute of Geochemistry and Limnological Institute, the team of Nedra Drilling Enterprise and the crew of R/V Ulan-Ude . The authors are grateful to Jim Kennett for very helpful and stimulating discussions, and to Kai Hinrichs and an anonymous reviewer for valuable and constructive comments on the manuscript. [BOYLE]

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Hydrates
  • Lake Baikal
  • Methane
  • Organic carbon
  • Siberia
  • Stable isotopes

Continental Scientific Drilling Facility tags

  • BDP
  • VERE


Dive into the research topics of 'Deglacial methane emission signals in the carbon isotopic record of Lake Baikal'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this