Red Sea 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
An international research team will begin drilling beneath the Dead Sea for 500,000 years of climate history on Friday morning.
International Continental Scientific Drilling Program chose the Dead
Sea as the site of its next drilling at the urging of Tel Aviv
University's Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham and the Israel Geological Survey's Dr. Mordechai Stein.
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The project is being sponsored by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, of which Ben-Avraham is a member.
will be drilling 300 meters down about six kilometers out from Ein Gedi
under the Dead Sea," Ben-Avraham, the Israel Prize-winning head of the
Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night.
will be taking out a vertical piece about half a kilometer long which
will allow us to get a picture of climate change on a year-by-year basis
going back 500,000 years," he said.
Ben-Avraham heads the
initiative along with Stein of the Hebrew University's Institute of
Earth Sciences, and Prof. Michael Lazar of the University of Haifa is
Because the surface of the Dead Sea is more than
400 meters below sea level, it is a drainage basin for water from all
over Israel and beyond. That water has brought sediment along with it,
which laid layer upon layer of stored geologic information throughout
hundreds of thousands of years.
The researchers believe the
sample will reveal detailed evidence of annual rainfall, climate change,
droughts, floods, dust storms, earthquakes and more over the last
roughly 500,000 years.
Through the sample, the scientists will be
able to track back through four Ice Ages and chart how the climate
changed without human involvement over the last hundred thousand years.
The research might lead to confirming biblical stories or the passage of
Homo Sapien from Africa to the rest of the world, the researchers have
Armed with a detailed history of climate change in
Israel and its environs, could it help the country predict future
patterns of temperatures and rainfall? "That's an interesting
philosophical question," Ben-Avraham mused. "Can the past give us
insight into the future? Not always."
"However, previous drilling which revealed the last 1,000 years have revealed significant periods of dry spells," he noted.
talk about how we are in the midst of several years of a dry spell now
and say it must be coming to an end. Well, there have been dry spells of
hundreds of years, so maybe we shouldn¹t be so sure," Ben-Avraham said.
We have noticed that climate events have come in clusters, he added.
Because of budget constraints, the team only has 40 days to drill, so the work will go on day and night.
The International Continental Scientific Drilling Program was founded in
1996 to encourage cooperation on researching the properties of the
Earth's crust through shallow and deep drilling. The organization has
funded drilling all over the world since then.
The Dead Sea Project brings together a team from Israel, Germany,
Switzerland, Norway, Japan and the US. There are also representatives of
the Palestinian Authority and Jordan involved.
"This is a massive project. Some of the analysis could keep researchers busy for the next 10 years," Ben-Avraham said.