Sep 11, 2021
The residents of Jordan Valley (governorate of Karak), were surprised by pools of water turning pinkish-red near the Dead Sea.
The normally pristine water comes from the mountains in Ghor Al-Hadeetha and fills up craters forming on the shores of the drying Dead Sea.
The red pool is isolated from the sea, and does not drain into it (well no really true if you believe in geology and understand how karstic environments actually work). The water is currently being investigated by officials.
In addition geological and biological investigations have been launched to determine the cause and source of the red color. Bacteria? Red algae? Mineral dissolution?
The Dead Sea is vanishing
In the past four decades over 6,000 sinkholes have appeared along the Israeli side of the Dead Sea, making large sections of the coast too dangerous to enter.
What turned this natural treasure into a trap is simple: the Dead Sea is vanishing.
At 430 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet, sitting at the bottom of the Great Rift Valley.
For millennia the lake has drawn visitors to float in its unusually buoyant, mineral-rich waters, which some say have healing properties.
The craggy hills of the surrounding Judean Desert provided the backdrop for many of the epic events narrated in the Bible.
But the ancient sea is slipping away.
The Dead Sea’s water level is declining by more than a meter a year, and its surface area has shrunk by around a third since the 1960s.
Bordered by Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, the Dead Sea’s water level is largely maintained by inflows from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River in the north.
In recent decades that flow has been reduced to a trickle.
Farming and industrial-scale mineral extraction are removing more water than can be replenished through natural means.
Over time, scientists like Dr Ish-Shalom have come to more fully understand the link between the plunging sea level and the expanding sinkhole fields.
How the giant sinkholes form
As the Dead Sea’s water level drops, sections of previously inundated land become exposed above the waterline.
The highly saline water leaves behind a thick layer of underground salt about 20 meters below the surface as it recedes.
When fresh water from winter floods washes down from the mountains it infiltrates the ground, dissolving the salt layer and forming an underground cavity.
The cavity eventually collapses, creating a sinkhole.
And now, scientists know the Dead Sea sinkholes are not isolated or small, but are part of giant cave systems called karsts, which carry water underground between the sinkholes (when for example, there is a flash flood event).
In the Bible, the Jews crossed the Jordan River to enter the Holy Land. It’s where Jesus was baptised.
Its waters, though much diminished, remain central to Christian rituals, even if they are now mainly sewage and salty discharge from springs.
Estimates show that less than 100 million cubic meters of water reach the Dead Sea every year, compared with historic flows of between 1,200 and 1,300 million cubic meters.