Synoptic-scale to mesoscale atmospheric circulation connects fluvial and coastal gravel conveyors and directional deposition of coastal landforms in the Dead Sea basin

Haggai Eyal*, Moshe Armon, Yehouda Enzel, Nadav G. Lensky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Streams convey coarse-clastic sediments towards coasts, where interactions with deltaic and coastal processes determine their resultant sedimentology and geomorphology. Extracting hydroclimatic signals from such environments is a desired goal, and therefore studies commonly rely on interpreting available paleoclimatic proxy data, but the direct linking of depositional and geomorphic processes with the hydroclimate remains obscure. This is a consequence of the challenge of linking processes that are often studied separately and span across large spatial and temporal scales, including synoptic-scale hydroclimatic forcing, streamflows, water body hydrodynamics, fluvial and coastal sediment transport, and sedimentation. Here, we explore this chain of connected processes in the unique setting of the Dead Sea basin, where present-day hydroclimatology is closely tied with geomorphic evolution and sediment transport of streams and coasts that rapidly respond to lake-level fall. We use a 5-year (2018-2022) rich dataset of (i) high-resolution synoptic-scale circulation patterns, (ii) continuous wind-wave and rain-flood records, and (iii) storm-scale fluvial and coastal sediment transport of "smart"and marked boulders. We show the significance of Mediterranean cyclones in the concurrent activation of fluvial (floods) and coastal (wind waves) sediment conveyors. These synoptic-scale patterns drive the westerlies necessary for (i) delivering the moisture across the Judean desert, which is transformed into floods, and at the same time, (ii) the coeval, topographically funneled winds that turn into surface southerlies (>10 m s-1) along the Dead Sea rift valley. During winter, these mesoscale southerlies generate 10-30 high-amplitude, northward-propagating storm waves, with <4 m wave heights. Such waves transport cobbles for hundreds of meters alongshore, northward and away from the supplying channel mouths. Four to nine times per winter the rainfall generated by these atmospheric patterns is capable of generating floods that reach the stream mouths, delivering poorly sorted, coarse gravel. This usually occurs during the decay of the associated storm waves. This gravel is dispersed alongshore by waves during subsequent storms. As storm waves dominate and are >5 times more frequent than flash floods, coarse-clastic beach berms and fan deltas are deposited preferentially north of the delivering channel mouths. This asymmetric depositional architecture, controlled by the regional hydroclimatology, is identified for both the modern and late Pleistocene coast and delta environments, implying that the dominance of present-day Mediterranean cyclones also persisted in the region during the late Pleistocene when Lake Lisan occupied the basin.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)547-574
Number of pages28
JournalEarth Surface Dynamics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 6 Jul 2023

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© 2023 Haggai Eyal et al.


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