Why the Lifeless Sea is getting saltier – and shallower

Lifeless Sea Salt Sculptures by Anat Eshed Goldberg

The lake’s water, which is more and more extracted to be used in beauty and ‘therapeutic’ minerals, merely isn’t being changed.

The world’s most historic salt lake has been shrinking by about three ft yearly, in accordance with environmentalist group EcoPeace Center East. Extreme tourism is taking its toll on the Lifeless Sea, the group warns, and influx has slowed to a trickle. The lake’s water, which is more and more extracted to be used in beauty and “therapeutic” merchandise, merely isn’t being changed.

Bordered by Jordan to the east and by Israel and Palestine to the west, the Lifeless Sea is a landlocked lake somewhat than a real sea, and is acknowledged as one of many saltiest our bodies of water on Earth.

Its identify is properly earned — no fish, birds or crops can survive in its excessive-saline setting. Alongside the shores, salt buildup collects in rocky ridges, peaks and towers, and guests discover that the Lifeless Sea’s additional-salty water is so buoyant that they will virtually sit on its floor.


Lately, an artist used the Lifeless Sea to rework an bizarre gown right into a brittle, glittering, salty sculpture. After spending two months immersed within the “sea,” the gown emerged thickly coated in sensible white crystals, a gleaming testomony to the amount of salt within the water.

However what’s it that makes the Lifeless Sea so excessively salty — almost 10 occasions saltier than regular seawater?

Salt of the Earth

Famed writer Mark Twain visited the Lifeless Sea in 1867, describing the weird expertise in his journey ebook, “The Innocents Overseas, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress” (American Publishing Firm, 1869) as “a humorous tub” that left him with “a splendid model-new odor.”

“A few of us bathed for greater than an hour, after which got here out coated with salt until we shone like icicles,” Twain wrote.

Most ocean water is usually about three.5 % dissolved salts, based on the Nationwide Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This salt originates in rocks on land; acids in rainwater dissolve the rocks and create ions — charged atomic particles — that runoff carries into the ocean. The most typical of those ions are sodium and chloride, which accumulate within the ocean as salt.

If all the salt within the ocean have been eliminated and unfold over all the dry land on Earth, the layer would attain a peak of 500 ft (one hundred fifty meters), based on NOAA.

However all of that salt continues to be only a drop within the bucket in comparison with the portions within the Lifeless Sea’s waters.

How low are you able to go?

NOAA estimates that the water within the Lifeless Sea is 5 to 9 occasions as briny as seawater. Salinity will increase within the sea’s deeper waters; at depths under 300 ft (one hundred m), the water turns into so concentrated with salt that it may possibly maintain no extra, and the salt builds up on the seafloor.


The Lifeless Sea lies in a fault valley that covers greater than 620 miles (1,000 km), starting on the Sinai Peninsula’s tip and increasing northward to Turkey. Its elevation is the bottom on the planet — 1,407 ft (429 m) under sea degree. A collection of lakes as soon as occupied this valley, however the final of them disappeared 15,000 years in the past, leaving solely the Lifeless Sea behind, in accordance with the Minerva Lifeless Sea Analysis Middle (MDSRC).

One supply of freshwater feeds the Lifeless Sea: the Jordan River. However with none retailers, when freshwater reaches the ocean, it has nowhere else to go. Within the arid low-mendacity desert, the water that collects within the Lifeless Sea evaporates extra shortly than water within the open ocean, leaving huge portions of salt behind, the MDSRC explains.

Left for lifeless

In recent times, human exercise has siphoned nonetheless extra valuable water from the Lifeless Sea by diverting the Jordan River for agricultural use, thus shrinking the ocean’s boundaries and making the remaining water even saltier.

Actually, the Lifeless Sea is disappearing at an alarming fee, receding by about three ft (1 m) annually, in response to a research revealed in 2010 within the journal Environmental Economics. The research authors additional famous that the Lifeless Sea has retreated by about one hundred ft (30 m) because the begin of the twentieth century.

And analysis means that even with out human intervention, the Lifeless Sea could possibly be in hassle. In 2010 and 2011, scientists drilled under the Lifeless Sea to search for clues about its geologic previous. They discovered that about one hundred twenty,000 years in the past, throughout a heat interval that preceded the final ice age, the Lifeless Sea dried up utterly, leaving all of its salt behind.

However although its future could also be unsure, the physique of water lengthy recognized for being a “lifeless zone” nonetheless has a number of surprises to supply scientists. In a 2011 expedition, researchers donned specialised diving gear and descended to beforehand unreachable depths within the salty water, discovering freshwater springs that have been surrounded by colonies of microbes.

It seems just like the Lifeless Sea may nonetheless have some life in it in any case.

The research was revealed on Live Science.


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