Under the Dead Sea, warnings of dire drought
Nearly 1,000 feet below the bed of the Dead Sea, scientists have found evidence that during past warm periods, the Mideast has suffered drought on scales never recorded by humans — a possible warning for current times.
Thick layers of crystalline salt show that rainfall plummeted to as little as a fifth of modern levels some 120,000 years ago, and again about 10,000 years ago.
Today, the region is drying again as climate warms, and scientists say it will get worse.
"All the observations show this region is one of those most affected by modern climate change, and it’s predicted to get dryer.
The landlocked Dead Sea, straddling Israel, Jordan and Palestinian lands, is earth’s lowest spot on land.
In recent years, its level has dropped about four feet a year.
In 2010, scientists from a half-dozen nations drilled 1,500 feet into the deepest part of the seabed, bringing up a cross section of deposits recording 200,000 years of regional climate history — the longest such archive in the Mideast.
About halfway down they found salty layers some 300 feet thick, indicating a long-term drop below the sea’s current level.
In the most extreme periods, it went down 80 percent, and this lasted for decades to centuries at a time.
"Our study shows that in the past, without any human intervention, the fresh water nearly stopped flowing.