Holocene humid periods of the Levant – evidence from Dead Sea lake-levels

Yonaton Goldsmith*, Ofer Cohen, Mordechai Stein, Adi Torfstein, Yael Kiro, Yochanan Kushnir, Yuval Bartov, Liran Ben-Moshe, Amos Frumkin, Nadav G. Lensky, Jonathan Keinan, Lilach Gonen, Yehouda Enzel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Water availability in the Levant is predicted to decline due to global warming in the upcoming decades and is expected to substantially impact the region. Determining the long-term natural rainfall variability in this region is essential for understanding the regional hydroclimatic response to external climate forcings and for contextualizing future hydroclimate changes. The Dead Sea (DS), located in the southern Levant, is a closed-basin lake whose size varies as a function of water availability. Reconstructing DS lake-level variations through time provides a quantitative measure of the natural hydroclimate variability and can inform on the local hydroclimate response to changes in global climate. Here, we constructed an updated lake-level history of the Holocene DS by: 1) studying lake high-stands derived from a series of new cores collected in the DS southern basin, 2) re-dating of the two major Holocene high-stand exposures, and 3) compiling all previously published ages of Holocene DS lake-level markers (n = 296 radiocarbon ages). The results show that the early (10–6.1 kyr cal BP) and late Holocene (3.6–0 kyr cal BP) in the DS were predominantly wet albeit punctuated by dry intervals, whereas the middle Holocene (6.1–3.6 kyr cal BP) was most likely relatively dry. This pattern of two Holocene humid intervals is also evident in distillation records derived from Levant speleothem caves (which represent the integrated magnitude of rainout from the vapor source to the caves), indicating that rainfall intensity and total water availability were correlated throughout the Holocene. These two humid intervals occurred during high and low summer insolation conditions, suggesting that they were modulated by different climatic mechanisms. The predicted future drying in the Levant is of similar magnitude to the natural hydroclimate variability and thus, it is crucial to assess whether the anthropogenic drying is in- or out-of phase with the natural climate variability.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number108312
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • Archaeology
  • Closed-basin lake
  • Dead sea
  • Eastern mediterranean
  • Holocene
  • Levant
  • Paleoclimate
  • Paleohydrology


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