Since I’m an in abstentia member of this intrepid Hales Group travel team, I’m contributing a brief post in response to their visit to the Jordanian coast of the Dead Sea. This spring an Independent Study student (Melissa Torma) and I had the privilege of exploring the Israeli shore of the Dead Sea with an expert Israeli geologist (Yoav Avni). At the time I gazed across the water at the beautiful Jordanian side, dreaming of visiting it (alas). In the image above you see us at lunch looking at the mountains of Jordan. The Hales Team was over there, somewhere, this week.
We saw the mirror image of the environmental and infrastructure damage the rapid decline of the Dead Sea is producing along the shore. The sinkholes are enormous and now number in the thousands, destroying roads, pipelines, and agricultural sites. The drop in sea level has also endangered the vast extractive chemical industries in both Israel and Jordan. The sea level is dropping about a meter a year, which is extraordinary. This reduction in base level also produces incredible erosional gullies as water from flashfloods cuts through the newly-exposed unconsolidated lake sediments with increasingly high energy.
One interesting effect for us as geologists is the extensive exposure of salt deposits from the evaporating Dead Sea waters. Thick sheets of sodium chloride (halite) cover the shore in some places, producing an eerie landscape and a decidedly crunchy surface.
Good luck to my colleagues as they continue their adventure!