During the Quaternary period, ice sheets centred over the Barents and Kara seas expanded several times onto mainland Russia and blocked northflowing rivers, such as the Yenissei, Ob, Pechora and Mezen. Large ice-dammed lakes with reversed outlets, e.g. toward the Caspian Sea, formed south of these ice sheets. Some lakes are reconstructed from shorelines and lacustrine sediments, others mainly from ice-sheet configuration. Ice-dammed lakes, considerably larger than any lake on Earth today, are reconstructed for the periods 90-80 and 60-50ka. The ages are based on numerous optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates. During the global Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, about 20ka) the Barents-Kara Ice Sheet was too small to block these eastern rivers, although in contrast to the 90-80 and 60-50ka maxima, the Scandinavian Ice Sheet grew large enough to divert rivers and meltwater across the drainage divide from the Baltic Basin to the River Volga, and that way to the Caspian Sea. Climate modelling shows that the lakes caused lower summer temperatures on the continent and on the lower parts of the ice sheet. The final drainage of the best mapped lake is modelled, and it is concluded that it probably emptied within few months. We predict that this catastrophic outburst had considerable impact on sea-ice formation in the Arctic Ocean and on the climate of a much larger area. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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