First published Dec. 22, 2010, on the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory web site: www.ldeo.columbia.edu.
Sediment cores taken from the Dead Sea indicate the area has dried up almost completely, probably in conjunction with the recession of glaciers. In the middle of a relatively dry period, the lake is under additional stress now from human consumption. (Photo: Adi Torfstein)
In the first project of its kind, scientists are drilling deep into the bed of the fast-shrinking Dead Sea, searching for clues to past climate changes and other events that may have affected human history back through Biblical times and before. In one early discovery, they have found that the sea has come and gone in the past—a revelation with powerful implications for the current Mideast.
Spanning Israel and Jordan, the inland Dead Sea is earth’s lowest-lying spot on land, with shores some 1,400 feet below ocean level, and hyper-salty waters going down another 1,200 feet or more. Beneath lie deep deposits of salts and sediments fed by the Jordan River drainage. The drilling, some 10 years in the making, is being conducted by investigators
from Israel, the United States, Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Norway.