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Multi-and Inter-Disciplinary Approaches Towards Understanding the Sinkholes' Phenomenon in the Dead Sea Basin, SN Applied Sciences, Springer (March 2020)

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Over the last few decades, thousands of sinkholes have developed at an increasing pace, with the majority along the western and eastern shores of the Dead Sea. Recent studies indicate that the number of sinkholes in the Dead Sea Basin (DSB) has reached more than 6000; each of them, on average, 1–10 m deep and up to 25–30 m in diameter. These sinkholes can open-up suddenly and swallow whatever exists above them, resulting in an area that looks like an earthquake zone. Sinkholes in the DSB are formed when a subterranean salt layer that once bordered the Dead Sea is dissolved by underground freshwater that follows the migration of the saltwater–freshwater interface, due to receding water level of the Dead Sea. Consequently, large areas of land are subsiding, causing the formation of sinkholes in the region. Also, based on the fact that the Dead Sea’s region is tectonically and seismically active, as being greatly affected by the Dead Sea transform fault system, sinkholes can also be evolved as a result of tectonic and seismic activities. This paper presents multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches towards understanding the occurrence of sinkholes in the DSB, with respect to geomorphology, geology, geophysics, tectonics, seismology, limnology, climatology, biodiversity, and socioeconomics, as well as the steady decline of the Dead Sea’s water level and the continuous shrinkage of its surface area and its water volume, at alarming rates. The occurrence of sinkholes in this region could be attributed to anthropogenic reasons and/or natural reasons.
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SN Applied Sciences (2020) 2:667 | https://doi.org/10.1007/s42452-020-2146-0
Research Article
Multi‑ andinter‑disciplinary approaches towardsunderstanding
thesinkholes’ phenomenon intheDead Sea Basin
HilmiS.Salem1
Received: 9 December 2019 / Accepted: 31 January 2020 / Published online: 16 March 2020
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
Abstract
Over the last few decades, thousands of sinkholes have developed at an increasing pace, with the majority along the
western and eastern shores of the Dead Sea. Recent studies indicate that the number of sinkholes in the Dead Sea Basin
(DSB) has reached more than 6000; each of them, on average, 1–10m deep and up to 25–30m in diameter. These sink-
holes can open-up suddenly and swallow whatever exists above them, resulting in an area that looks like an earthquake
zone. Sinkholes in the DSB are formed when a subterranean salt layer that once bordered the Dead Sea is dissolved by
underground freshwater that follows the migration of the saltwater–freshwater interface, due to receding water level
of the Dead Sea. Consequently, large areas of land are subsiding, causing the formation of sinkholes in the region. Also,
based on the fact that the Dead Sea’s region is tectonically and seismically active, as being greatly aected by the Dead
Sea transform fault system, sinkholes can also be evolved as a result of tectonic and seismic activities. This paper presents
multi- and inter-disciplinary approaches towards understanding the occurrence of sinkholes in the DSB, with respect to
geomorphology, geology, geophysics, tectonics, seismology, limnology, climatology, biodiversity, and socioeconomics,
as well as the steady decline of the Dead Sea’s water level and the continuous shrinkage of its surface area and its water
volume, at alarming rates. The occurrence of sinkholes in this region could be attributed to anthropogenic reasons and/
or natural reasons.
Keywords Sinkholes· Dead Sea Basin· Water level’s decline· Surface area’s shrinkage· Anthropogenic causes· Naturally
induced· Brine and freshwater· Tectonics and seismicity· Transform fault system
List of symbols
Vp Compressional wave velocity
Vs Shear wave velocity
Vp/Vs Ratio of compressional wave velocity to shear
wave velocity
k Permeability (hydraulic conductivity)
φ Porosity
τ Tortuosity
ρ Electric resistivity
Abbreviations
APC Arab Potash Company
BP Before present
BrO Bromide oxide
DSB Dead Sea Basin
DSF Dead Sea fault
DSFS Dead Sea fault system
DSTF Dead Sea transform fault
ERT Electric resistivity tomography
FDEM Frequency domain electro-magnetic
GIS Geographic information system
GPR Ground-penetrating radar
HSL Hyper-saline lake
InSAR Interferometric synthetic aperture radar
JRV Jordan Rift Valley
LiDAR Light detection and ranging
MCASW Multichannel analysis of surface waves
MODIS Moderate resolution imaging
spectro-radiometer
* Hilmi S. Salem, hilmisalem@yahoo.com | 1Sustainable Development Research Institute, Bethlehem, WestBank, Palestine.
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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