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      'Dead Sea Drying' – An Ancient Pattern

      Environmentalists are concerned about the Dead Sea drying up, but Tel Aviv Univ. scientists say the pattern is one as old as time itself.
      By Chana Ya'ar
      First Publish: 4/16/2012, 12:14 AM

      Sink holes developing along the Dead Sea
      Sink holes developing along the Dead Sea
      Israel news photo: Hana Levi Julian

      Environmentalists are increasingly concerned about the Dead Sea drying up – but Tel Aviv University scientists say the pattern is one as old as time itself.

      Researchers under the direction of Professor Zvi Ben-Avraham of TAU's Minerva Dead Sea Research Center, and Professor Mordechai stein of the Geological Survey of Israel have found the phenomenon is not new.

      The scientists drilled 460 meters beneath the sea floor and extracted sediments spanning 200,000 years that revealed past climatic conditions.

      The layers of salt showed a number of periods of dryness with sparse rainfall, causing water to recede and salt to gather at the center of the lake.

      According to the scientists, the sea has come close to drying up entirely at least twice in the past, most recently 13,000 years ago.

      This time, however, the threat is man-made, warned Ben-Avraham. “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 said.

      Water is being taken from the sea at its southern tip by the Dead Sea Works factory for chemical processing, and from northern rivers for irrigation before it ever reaches the body of water.

      At present, the water level of the Dead Sea rests at 426 meters below sea level, and is dropping by at least one meter per year.