New perspectives on interdisciplinary earth science at the Dead Sea: The DESERVE project

Christoph Kottmeier*, Amotz Agnon, Djamil Al-Halbouni, Pinhas Alpert, Ulrich Corsmeier, Torsten Dahm, Adam Eshel, Stefan Geyer, Michael Haas, Eoghan Holohan, Norbert Kalthoff, Pavel Kishcha, Charlotte Krawczyk, Joseph Lati, Jonathan B. Laronne, Friederike Lott, Ulf Mallast, Ralf Merz, Jutta Metzger, Ayman MohsenEfrat Morin, Manuela Nied, Tino Rödiger, Elias Salameh, Ali Sawarieh, Benbella Shannak, Christian Siebert, Michael Weber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The Dead Sea region has faced substantial environmental challenges in recent decades, including water resource scarcity, ∼ 1 m annual decreases in the water level, sinkhole development, ascending-brine freshwater pollution, and seismic disturbance risks. Natural processes are significantly affected by human interference as well as by climate change and tectonic developments over the long term. To get a deep understanding of processes and their interactions, innovative scientific approaches that integrate disciplinary research and education are required. The research project DESERVE (Helmholtz Virtual Institute Dead Sea Research Venue) addresses these challenges in an interdisciplinary approach that includes geophysics, hydrology, and meteorology. The project is implemented by a consortium of scientific institutions in neighboring countries of the Dead Sea (Israel, Jordan, Palestine Territories) and participating German Helmholtz Centres (KIT, GFZ, UFZ). A new monitoring network of meteorological, hydrological, and seismic/geodynamic stations has been established, and extensive field research and numerical simulations have been undertaken. For the first time, innovative measurement and modeling techniques have been applied to the extreme conditions of the Dead Sea and its surroundings. The preliminary results show the potential of these methods. First time ever performed eddy covariance measurements give insight into the governing factors of Dead Sea evaporation. High-resolution bathymetric investigations reveal a strong correlation between submarine springs and neo-tectonic patterns. Based on detailed studies of stratigraphy and borehole information, the extension of the subsurface drainage basin of the Dead Sea is now reliably estimated. Originality has been achieved in monitoring flash floods in an arid basin at its outlet and simultaneously in tributaries, supplemented by spatio-temporal rainfall data. Low-altitude, high resolution photogrammetry, allied to satellite image analysis and to geophysical surveys (e.g. shear-wave reflections) has enabled a more detailed characterization of sinkhole morphology and temporal development and the possible subsurface controls thereon. All the above listed efforts and scientific results take place with the interdisciplinary education of young scientists. They are invited to attend joint thematic workshops and winter schools as well as to participate in field experiments.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1045-1058
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Authors.


  • Climate
  • Education
  • Flash floods
  • Seismicity
  • Sinkholes
  • Water balance


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