This work presents a detailed, orbitally tuned biogenic silica record of continental paleoclimate change during the Brunhes chron. The Brunhes/Matuyama boundary lies within the warm isotopic stage 19 in Baikal, and the boundaries between eight lithological cycles correspond to terminations in the marine oxygen isotope record. The high amplitude and resolution of climatically driven changes in BioSi content in Lake Baikal sediments permits tuning of almost every precessional cycle during the Brunhes and reveals the structure of interglacial stages. For example, the last three interglacial stages (MIS 5, 7, and 9) clearly consist of five substages (a, b, c, d, e) corresponding to precessional insolation peaks. Abrupt and intense regional glaciations in Siberia during substages 5d and 7d were driven by extreme insolation minima. During substage 9d cooling was more gradual in response to more moderate forcing. The impact of strong glaciation is also observed in the middle of stage 15, where full glacial conditions appear to have lasted for over 30,000 yr during substages 15d, 15c, and 15b. Marine oxygen isotopic stage 11 appears to be the warmest period during the Brunhes in the Lake Baikal record, with at least three substages.
A new hypothesis is presented regarding the response of the Lake Baikal BioSi record to insolation forcing. Based on the mechanism controlling modern diatom blooms, biogenic silica production is hypothesized to be dependent on changes in the heat balance of the lake and consequently on changes in the thermal structure of the water column. This mechanism is also sensitive to short-term sub-Milankovich cooling events, such as the mid-Eemian cooling, the Montaigu event during substage 5c, and a cooling which appears to be analogous to the Montaigu event during substage 9c. The continuity of the Lake Baikal paleoclimate record, its sensitivity to orbital forcing, and its high resolution make it an excellent candidate for a new “paleoclimatic stratotype” section for continental Asia.