Overview of modern atmospheric patterns controlling rainfall and floods into the Dead Sea: Implications for the lake's sedimentology and paleohydrology

Moshe Armon*, Efrat Morin, Yehouda Enzel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Dead Sea sedimentary fill is the basis for interpreting limnological conditions and regional paleohydrology. Such interpretations require an understanding of present-day hydroclimatology to reveal the relative impact of different atmospheric circulation patterns on water and sediment delivery to the Dead Sea. Here we address the most important meteorological conditions governing regional and local rainstorm occurrences, with different discharge characteristics. These meteorological controls over the Dead Sea watershed offer insights into past hydrometeorological processes that could have governed the Dead Sea water budget, seasonal and annual flows, floods, and the resultant sedimentology. Rainfall is typically associated with synoptic-scale circulation patterns forced by an upper-level trough that include Mediterranean cyclones (MCs), active Red Sea troughs (ARSTs), and active subtropical jets (STJs), although other rainstorms and sub-synoptic processes also affect the region. We point to their relative importance in inflow volume, peak discharges, and delivery of sediments from the various environments of the basin. MCs control the annual water amount discharging into the Dead Sea. A change in their frequency, intensity, or latitude can substantially alter the lake water balance. A change in frequency or intensity of ARSTs and STJs affects extreme flood and sediment discharge. Floods reach the lake through (a) the Mediterranean-climate-controlled Lower Jordan River, (b) desert-climate-controlled Nahal HaArava, and (c) the arid wadies draining directly into the Dead Sea, some with wetter headwaters. Floods in the wetter parts of the watershed are mainly controlled by MCs, and characterized by larger frequency, volume, and duration, but lower peak discharges and possibly sediment delivery, than floods in the desert parts, which can be produced by the three synoptic types. ARSTs contribute to heavy rainfall, typically of a spotty nature, in the desert parts of the watershed. STJs are currently rare, but their rainfall accumulation may be greater than the annual mean over a broad area in the southern dry Dead Sea watershed. This article presents a review of recent studies, which is extended with new analyses of meteorological, rainfall and flood data, underlining the importance of the Lower Jordan River in supplying water volume to the Dead Sea, as compared to the high-discharge, low-volume floods of the arid part of the watershed. Our analyses will help interpret paleoenvironmental conditions in the Dead Sea sedimentary record, and cope with the region's changing climate.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)58-73
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Volume216
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd

Keywords

  • Dead sea
  • Floods
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Present
  • Quaternary
  • Rainfall
  • Sedimentary record
  • Synoptic climatology

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