Israeli researchers are using satellite technology to identify sinkholes forming along the shores of the Dead Sea.
While the ancient body of water in the lowest spot on the planet is continuing to dry up at an alarming rate of nearly one meter per year, scientists are working hard to stop the water level from dropping further, and restore the Sea to its former “good health.” One of the hazards that has resulted from the process is that of sinkholes, small and large, that are appearing in increasing numbers along the shores of the lake.
Tens of thousands tourists and residents flock to the site each year for their own health. The Dead Sea waters are known for their healing properties, as is the mud on the shores that surround the lake, and even the air, which is permeated with special, soothing elements. Due to the low elevation, the site filters the most harmful UV rays of the sun, while allowing in those that help eradicate skin diseases such as psoriasis.
But what these visitors don't know is that they are at risk of falling into sinkholes that can appear suddenly around the shore of the lake.
Some are actual caverns, measuring up to 39 feet in diameter and 65 feet deep, leading to injury and even death for those who are caught unaware. Several hundred sinkholes form every year in the area – and the risk is continuing to rise.
A team of researchers that includes Tel Aviv University's Dr. Alon Ziv is working on identifying when a sinkhole will appear, however. Radar waves that display even minute changes on the Earth's surface are sent to the scientists by the “Cosmo-Skymed” earth-observation satellite system every 16 days. The space transmission allows the researchers to measure changes in the surface of the area around the Dead Sea, enabling the scientists to flag any spot as a potential sinkhole hazard.
Knowing when and where such an event might occur can allow authorities to plan ahead for the environment, researchers said.