Wooster Geologists return to the Dead Sea

May 30th, 2011

MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–Today Will and I went to Jerusalem for meetings at the Geological Survey of Israel headquarters. Much more on that later. On the way Yoav drove us along the west coast of the Dead Sea. Will got a chance to dip his hand in the warm and heavy water, and we talked about salt, shorelines and sinkholes.

These are halite (salt) deposits on the Dead Sea shore near Will’s feet above. Halite encrusts all that this water touches, from rocks and sediment to abandoned tires.

This slope above the highway on the west shore of the Dead Sea shows ancient shorelines from roughly 26,000 to 14,000 years ago. The sea then was salty but only about half the current salinity. Shorelines fluctuated but generally fell during this 12,000 year interval.

A serious environmental problem along the western shore is the development of huge sinkholes. These are forming because the Dead Sea is losing water rapidly (it drops about a meter per year) and freshwater is now finding thick salt deposits underground. The water dissolves the salts, forming caverns that eventually collapse and make the pits above. Often the pits then fill with water, making small ponds that have their own flora and fauna.

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