The Death of the Dead Sea

The Death of the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea

One of the most interesting places on Earth is the Dead Sea. This body of water between Israel and Jordan is located 1400 feet below sea level at its surface. The lake is 978 feet deep and is fed by the Jordan River. The water is so salty that a person entering the lake floats so that most of their body is above the lake’s surface. The minerals that make the lake salty are essential and have been mined for centuries by simply evaporating the water. Health spas have sprung up around the lake, bringing in a busy tourist trade. However, we may be approaching the death of the Dead Sea.

The geology that has produced the lake is another interesting feature. The Jordan Rift Valley is a long depression between two geologic faults, known as a graben. Grabens are common on Earth, but this one is unusually deep.

One reason for the potential death of the Dead Sea is that in recent years it has been evaporating much more rapidly than ever before due to climate change. As a result, in some years, the lake’s surface has fallen four feet. As the lake level drops, numerous sinkholes have formed where the exposed ground that used to be at the bottom of the lake dries and collapses. As a result, an area that contained roads and beaches is now dotted with sinkholes making it too dangerous for travel.

However, the death of the Dead Sea has multiple causes. The Jordan River is essentially not flowing into the lake as people have diverted its water for drinking and irrigation. People also use evaporation ponds to recover minerals, accelerating the water loss. Between human over-use and climate change, the Dead Sea is rapidly becoming inhospitable to any human use or travel.

Concerned parties have proposed ways to stop water loss, but they require cooperation that is difficult to achieve. This is one more case where the human responsibility to care for what God has given us remains unmet. Trying to deny the problem exists is difficult when the evidence is overpowering. Human greed and exploitation, plus climate changes, may lead to the death of the Dead Sea.

–John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: NPR for 12/11/22 by Ofir Berman and Daniel Estrin