Study finds that the Dead Sea almost dried up over 100,000 years ago

Apr 10, 2012
Salt buildup on the shores of the Dead Sea. Image: Ian and Wendy Sewell/Wikipedia

Rapidly dropping water levels of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth's surface heralded for its medicinal properties, has been a source of ecological concern for years. Now a drilling project led by researchers from Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University reveals that water levels have risen and fallen by hundreds of meters over the last 200,000 years.

Directed by Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham of TAU's Minerva Dead Sea Research Center and Prof. Mordechai Stein of the Geological Survey of Israel, researchers drilled 460 meters beneath the sea floor and extracted sediments spanning 200,000 years. The material recovered revealed the region's past climatic conditions and may allow researchers to forecast future changes.

Layers of salt indicated several periods of dryness and very little rainfall, causing water to recede and salt to gather at the center of the lake. During the last , approximately 120,000 years ago, the sea came close to drying up entirely, the researchers found, with another period of extreme dryness taking place about 13,000 years ago.

Today, the Dead Sea lies 426 meters below sea level and is receding rapidly. Despite this historical precedent, there is still cause for concern, says Prof. Ben-Avraham. In the past the change was climate-driven, the result of natural conditions; today, the lake is threatened by human activity.

"What we see happening in the Middle East is something that mimics a severe , but this is not climate-enforced, this is a man-made phenomenon," he warns, caused by increasing amounts of water being taken from rivers for irrigation before it reaches the . Ultimately, this prevents the refilling of the sea by the waters of the .

Explore further: NASA's HS3 mission continues with flights over Hurricane Gonzalo

Related Stories

Back to the dead (sea, that is)

Dec 23, 2010

They'll drill through four ice ages, epic sandstorms, mankind's migration from Africa to the New World, and the biggest droughts in history. Tel Aviv University is heading an international study that for the ...

'Red to Dead' seawater plan underway

Sep 04, 2006

Esteemed British architect Lord Foster has been enlisted to carve a canal through the Sinai desert in order to rescue the Dead Sea from environmental damage.

Is the Dead Sea dying?

Mar 04, 2009

The water levels in the Dead Sea - the deepest point on Earth - are dropping at an alarming rate with serious environmental consequences, according to Shahrazad Abu Ghazleh and colleagues from the University ...

Recommended for you

NASA image: Fires in the Egypt River Delta

14 hours ago

This NASA satellite image is of the Egyptian River Delta. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS's thermal bands, are outlined in red. Each hot spot, which appears as a red mark, is an area where the thermal ...

Terra Satellite sees Tropical Storm Ana over Hawaii

14 hours ago

Tropical Storm Ana made a slow track west of the Hawaiian islands over the last couple of days, and by Oct. 20 was moving westward away from the main Hawaiian islands and heading toward the northwest Hawaiian ...

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
not rated yet Apr 10, 2012
Ultimately, this prevents the refilling of the sea by the waters of the Jordan River.


Then pump water from the Med, if this is such a concern.
Russkiycremepuff
1 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2012
That would take some intelligence for them to figure that out. They would not even have to remove the salt from the Mediterranean waters. The inland Dead Sea is already salty which makes it a good tourist attraction.
kaasinees
0 / 5 (21) Apr 10, 2012
A pipeline from the med to the dead sea , not a bad idea?
You can make decent pipes with cheap clay.
Bigbobswinden
not rated yet Apr 11, 2012
Easy answers, sound like they were found in a Pub. (a British drinking establishment)