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Has the Dead Sea used up its nine lives? Dead Sea almost dried up over 100,000 years ago

Date:
April 10, 2012
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
Scientists say that recent drilling into the sediment of the Dead Sea indicates that it has recovered from several periods of dryness and very little rainfall in the ancient past, but warns that there's still cause for concern.

Rapidly dropping water levels of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on 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.

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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 interglacial period, 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 dry period, 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 Dead Sea. Ultimately, this prevents the refilling of the sea by the waters of the Jordan River.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Has the Dead Sea used up its nine lives? Dead Sea almost dried up over 100,000 years ago." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120410130849.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2012, April 10). Has the Dead Sea used up its nine lives? Dead Sea almost dried up over 100,000 years ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120410130849.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Has the Dead Sea used up its nine lives? Dead Sea almost dried up over 100,000 years ago." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120410130849.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

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