A dry Dead Sea before biblical times

Posted: 12/09/2011 in all marine news

Emily Sohn –

The Dead Sea nearly disappeared about 120,000 years ago, say researchers who drilled more than 1,500 feet below one of the deepest parts of the politically contentious body of water.

The discovery looms large at a time when the Dead Sea is shrinking rapidly, Middle Eastern nations are battling over water rights, and experts hotly debate whether the salt lake could ever dry up completely in the years to come.

New data from drilled deposits are also helping piece together geological history that slices through Biblical times.

Further research may offer opportunities to verify whether earthquakes destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

“We see a lot of these different stories in the Bible about fat years and lean years,” said Steven Goldstein, a geochemist at Columbia University in New York.

“And we can see in the record that there were these intervals where it looks like it was a land of milk and honey, and there were intervals where there was no water, no rain and I’m sure, famine. Climate validates that there were these rhythms.”

The new research started, not as an attempt to investigate Biblical events, but to understand the history of the Dead Sea, which has been drying up at dramatic rates in recent decades.

As a result of both evaporation and intensive human demands for water from inflowing rivers, the surface of the lake dropped 23 meters (75 feet) from 1930 to 2000, said Emi Ito, a geochemist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. And the lake’s rate of shrinking seems to be accelerating.

From 2000 to 2008, levels dropped 8 m (26 feet), with another 1.5 m (5 feet) lost in 2010 alone. Even as the lake’s salty shores recede, though, scientists have long debated whether it could ever totally dry up.

Because the water is so salty and because salt and water molecules attract each other, many modeling studies have suggested that some amount of water will always remain there.

Full story…

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