Equations are not being displayed properly on some articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Our apologies.

Sparavigna, A. (2016). Sinkholes of Dead Sea in Satellite Image Time Series. PHILICA.COM Article number 575.

ISSN 1751-3030  
Log in  
  1270 Articles and Observations available | Content last updated 13 December, 05:46  
Philica entries accessed 3 488 856 times  

NEWS: The SOAP Project, in collaboration with CERN, are conducting a survey on open-access publishing. Please take a moment to give them your views

Submit an Article or Observation

We aim to suit all browsers, but recommend Firefox particularly:

Sinkholes of Dead Sea in Satellite Image Time Series

Amelia Carolina Sparavignaunconfirmed user (Department of Applied Science and Technology, Politecnico di Torino)

Published in enviro.philica.com

Here we investigate in satellite image time series of Google Earth a phenomenon linked to the decreasing level of the Dead Sea, the appearance of sinkholes. Keywords: Satellite Image Time Series, Google Earth

Article body

Sinkholes of Dead Sea in Satellite Image Time Series


Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Department of Applied Science and Technology, Politecnico di Torino, Italy


Abstract: Here we investigate in satellite image time series of Google Earth a phenomenon linked to the decreasing level of the Dead Sea, the appearance of sinkholes.

Keywords: Satellite Image Time Series, Google Earth


The Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake between Jordan and Israel, which lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, having as main tributary the Jordan River. It is a hypersaline lake, with 34.2% salinity (in 2011) [1], being then 9.6 times as salty as the ocean [2]. The name of the lake comes from this salinity which does not allow life to flourish in it.

This Sea had a great importance for the local history and environment: it was a health resort for King Herod the Great, and, in the past, it had been the supplier of products such as asphalt for ancient Egyptian and potash for fertilizers [1]. Today, its salt and minerals are used to create cosmetics.

In 1930, its surface was 1,050 km2 and its level was 390 m below sea level. From this year, the Dead Sea has been monitored continuously [3]. In recent decades, the Sea has been rapidly shrinking because of diversion of incoming water from the Jordan River. The southern end of the Sea is fed by a canal maintained by a company which is converting the sea's raw materials. To preserve the Sea, in December 2013, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement for laying a water pipeline to link the Red Sea with the Dead Sea [4]. In January 2015 it was reported that the level of water is now dropping by three feet a year [1].

The Dead Sea level drop is causing the appearance of large sinkholes along the western shore. It is linked to freshwater that dissolves salt layers, creating subsurface cavities that collapse forming the sinkholes [5]. In Ref.6, it was told than in 2006, more than a thousand sinkholes had developed along the western coast of the Sea since the early 1980s, all occurring within a narrow strip less than 1 km wide. The researchers observed that the appearance of sinkholes was a highly dynamic phenomenon that was accelerating in the recent years of their observations. The sinkholes had been produced by the salt dissolution by groundwater, a cause evidenced by direct observations in test boreholes. However, as told in [6], the entire phenomenon was involving the Sea is a hydrological chain reaction, which "starts by intensive extraction of fresh water upstream of the Dead Sea, continues with the eastward retreat of the lake shoreline, which in turn modifies the groundwater regime, finally triggering the formation of sinkholes".

The sinkholes of the Dead Sea are the subject of several researches, among them [8-13]. In 2015, in [13], the authors tell that more than 4,000 sinkholes have formed since the 1980s (four times the number given in 2006). Their formation rate accelerated in recent years to > 400 sinkholes per year. Moreover, an association between sinkhole sites and land subsidence is revealed by interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) measurements [13].

The highly dynamic phenomenon of sinkhole, such as the drop of the dead Sea level can be easily observed in the satellite images of Google Earth. In fact, this virtual globe is offering for some large areas of the Dead Sea, several images with high resolution, arranged in SITS (a SITS, Satellite Image Time Series, is a set of images taken from the same scene at different times). SITS offers opportunities for understanding how a location is changing, and, in some cases, also predicting the future changes. Therefore, it is a fundamental tool for environmental monitoring and analysis of land-cover dynamics, such as for monitoring the land use by human activities [14-17]. In some previous papers, for instance, we have shown examples of SITS to investigate the motion of sand dunes [18-22].

Let us consider here some sinkholes near Ein Gedi, as given in SITS by Google Earth. Ein Gedi is an oasis, near Masada and the Qumran Caves. The series is given in the Figures 1-4, from May 2002 to July 2010. Note that the edge of the sea moved of about 145 meters in eight years.





We can also use the images of May 2002 and July 2010 for having a composed image for an easy comparison (see Figure 5). The image had been obtained using GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program.  In it, it is impressing how the edge of the Sea moved. However, the drop of the Sea is continuing. In the Figure 6, we can see in a HERE map, a more recent image (2014) of the same location.

Fig.5: Using Figs.1 and 4, combined by means of GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, we can easy see how the edge of the Dead Sea moved in eight years. 

Fig.6: A HERE map gives us a more recent image (2014) of the same location of Fig.5. 

The satellite images are clearly showing that the Dead Sea is drying up.  Of course, it is also evident from them, that the number of sinkholes is rapidly increasing, making the shores of the Sea a more dangerous place today than in the past. If the satellite images had a high enough resolution, a monitoring of sinkholes could be made precisely and directly from local population, through services such as Google Earth. Shores of Dead Sea then are places where a direct monitoring from above of the local environment could help in a safe  management of human activities. 



[1] Vv. Aa. (2016). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea

[2] Goetz, P.W. (ed.) (1986). The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th ed.).

[3] Vv. Aa. (1998). Overview of Middle East water resources - Dead Sea. Jewish Virtual Library.

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/09/dead-sea-pipeline-water-red-sea

[5] Klein, C., & Flohn, A. (1987). Contribution to the knowledge in the fluctuations of the Dead Sea level. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 38, 151-156. DOI: 10.1007/bf00868099

[6] Yechieli, Y., Abelson, M., Bein, A., Crouvi, O., & Shtivelman, V. (2006). Sinkhole “swarms” along the Dead Sea coast: reflection of disturbance of lake and adjacent groundwater systems. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 118(9-10), 1075-1087. DOI: 10.1130/b25880.1

[7] Abelson, M., Yechieli, Y., Crouvi, O., Baer, G., Wachs, D., Bein, A., & Shtivelman, V. (2006). Evolution of the Dead Sea sinkholes. Geological Society of America Special Papers, 401, 241-253. DOI: 10.1130/2006.2401(16)

[8] Closson, D., Karaki, N.A., Klinger, Y., & Hussein, M.J. (2005). Subsidence and sinkhole hazard assessment in the southern Dead Sea area, Jordan. Pure and Applied geophysics, 162(2), 221-248. DOI: 10.1007/s00024-004-2598-y

[9] Wust-Bloch, G.H., & Joswig, M. (2006). Pre-collapse identification of sinkholes in unconsolidated media at Dead Sea area by ‘nanoseismic monitoring’ (graphical jackknife location of weak sources by few, low-SNR records). Geophysical Journal International, 167(3), 1220-1232. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-246x.2006.03083.x

[10] Closson, D. (2005). Structural control of sinkholes and subsidence hazards along the Jordanian Dead Sea coast. Environmental Geology, 47(2), 290-301. DOI: 10.1007/s00254-004-1155-4

[11] Atzori, S., Antonioli, A., Salvi, S., & Baer, G. (2015). InSAR?based modeling and analysis of sinkholes along the Dead Sea coastline. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(20), 8383-8390. DOI: 10.1002/2015gl066053

[12] Nof, R. N., Baer, G., Ziv, A., Raz, E., Atzori, S., & Salvi, S. (2013). Sinkhole precursors along the Dead Sea, Israel, revealed by SAR interferometry. Geology, 41(9), 1019-1022. DOI: 10.1130/g34505.1

[13] Yechieli, Y., Abelson, M., & Baer, G. (2015). Sinkhole formation and subsidence along the Dead Sea coast, Israel. Hydrogeology Journal, 1-12. DOI: 10.1007/s10040-015-1338-y

[14] Yang, X., & Lo, C. P. (2002). Using a time series of satellite imagery to detect land use and land cover changes in the Atlanta, Georgia metropolitan area. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 23(9), 1775-1798. DOI: 10.1080/01431160110075802

[15] Serra, P., & Pons, X. (2008). Monitoring farmers' decisions on Mediterranean irrigated crops using satellite image time series. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 29(8), 2293-2316. DOI: 10.1080/01431160701408444

[16] Seto, K.C., & Fragkias, M. (2005). Quantifying spatiotemporal patterns of urban land-use change in four cities of China with time series landscape metrics. Landscape ecology, 20(7), 871-888. DOI: 10.1007/s10980-005-5238-8

[17] Jakubauskas, M.E., Legates, D.R., & Kastens, J.H. (2002). Crop identification using harmonic analysis of time-series AVHRR NDVI data. Computers and electronics in agriculture, 37(1), 127-139. DOI: 10.1016/s0168-1699(02)00116-3

[18] Sparavigna, A.C. (2013). A study of moving sand dunes by means of satellite images. International Journal of Sciences, 2(8). Pages 33-42. DOI: 10.18483/ijsci.229

[19] Sparavigna, A.C. (2013). Moving dunes on the Google Earth, arXiv preprint arXiv:1301.1290

[20] Sparavigna, A.C. (2013). The GNU Image Manipulation Program applied to study the sand dunes. International Journal of Sciences, 2(9). Pages 1-8. DOI: 10.18483/ijsci.289

[21] Sparavigna, A.C. (2013). A case study of moving sand dunes: The barchans of the Kharga Oasis. International Journal of Sciences, 2(8). Pages 95-97. DOI: 10.18483/ijsci.241

[22] Sparavigna, A.C. (2016). Analysis of the motion of some Brazilian coastal dunes, International Journal of Sciences, 5(1), 22-31. DOI: 10.18483/ijSci.905

Information about this Article
This Article has not yet been peer-reviewed
This Article was published on 20th February, 2016 at 20:28:25 and has been viewed 1729 times.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.
The full citation for this Article is:
Sparavigna, A. (2016). Sinkholes of Dead Sea in Satellite Image Time Series. PHILICA.COM Article number 575.

<< Go back Review this ArticlePrinter-friendlyReport this Article

Website copyright © 2006-07 Philica; authors retain the rights to their work under this Creative Commons License and reviews are copyleft under the GNU free documentation license.
Using this site indicates acceptance of our Terms and Conditions.

This page was generated in 0.3801 seconds.