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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 11 Oct 2018

Research article | 11 Oct 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Solid Earth (SE).

Sinkholes, stream channels and base-level fall: a 50-year record of spatio-temporal development on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea

Robert A. Watson1, Eoghan P. Holohan1, Djamil Al-Halbouni2, Leila Saberi3, Ali Sawarieh4, Damien Closson5, Hussam Alrshdan4, Najib Abou Karaki6,a, Christian Siebert7, Thomas R. Walter2, and Torsten Dahm2 Robert A. Watson et al.
  • 1UCD School of Earth Sciences, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (GFZ), Section 2.1, Potsdam, Germany
  • 3University of Minnesota, Department of Earth Sciences, Minneapolis, USA
  • 4Ministry of Energy & Mineral Resources, Amman, Jordan
  • 5Geographic Information Management, Brussels, Belgium
  • 6Department of Environmental and Applied Geology, University of Jordan, Amman, 11942, Jordan
  • 7Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, T. Lieser Str. 4, Halle 06120, Germany
  • aon sabbatical leave at the Environmental Engineering Department, Al-Hussein bin Talal University, Ma’an-Jordan

Abstract. The fall of hydrological base-level is long established as a driver of geomorphological change in both fluvial and karst systems, but few natural occurrences occur on timescales suitable for direct observation. Here we document the spatiotemporal development of fluvial and karstic landforms along the eastern coast of the hypersaline Dead Sea (at Ghor al-Haditha, Jordan) during a 50-year period of regional base-level decline from 1967 to 2017. Combining remote sensing data with close-range photogrammetric surveys, we show that the 35 m base-level fall has caused shoreline retreat of up to 2.5 km, and resulted in: (1) incision of new meandering or straight/braided stream channels and (2) formation of > 1100 sinkholes and several salt-karst uvalas. Both alluvial incision and karst-related subsidence represent significant hazards to local infrastructure. The development of groundwater-fed meandering stream channels is in places interlinked with that of the sinkholes and uvalas. Moreover, active areas of channel incision and sinkhole development both migrate seaward in time, broadly in tandem with shoreline retreat. Regarding theoretical effects of base-level fall, our observations show some deviations from those predicted for channel geometry, but are remarkably consistent with those for groundwater-related salt karstification. Our results present, for the first time in the Dead Sea region, the dual response of surface and subsurface hydrological systems to base level drop as indicated by fluvial and karst geomorphological analysis.

Robert A. Watson et al.
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Robert A. Watson et al.
Robert A. Watson et al.
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Short summary
The fall of the Dead Sea level since the 1960s has provoked rapid incision of stream channels and the formation of over 6000 sinkholes, a major hazard to local economy and infrastructure. In this context, we study the evolution of the Dead Sea’s eastern shore from 1967–2017. The study is the first to examine surface and subsurface hydrological response to lake level fall over such a timescale, and demonstrates how sinkhole development is spatio-temporally linked to the declining Dead Sea level.
The fall of the Dead Sea level since the 1960s has provoked rapid incision of stream channels...