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Scientists digging for climate history beneath Dead Sea

Last Updated: Friday, December 24, 2010 - 16:00

Jerusalem: In an unprecedented research, an
international team of scientists has been digging deep beneath
the Dead Sea to collect a record of climate change and
earthquake history stretching back half a million years.

Under this unique project, led by Prof Zvi Ben-Avraham of
Tel Aviv University`s (TAU) Minerva Dead Sea Research Center,
the team will dig deep beneath the Dead Sea, 500 meters down
under 300 meters of water.

At 423 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest
place on earth which attracts millions of tourists from around
the world to enjoy its legendarily healing properties.

"The study aims to get a complete record in unprecedented
resolution -- at one year intervals -- of the last 500
thousand years," said Prof Ben-Avraham.

Looking at the core sample to be dug about five miles
offshore near Ein Gedi, the researchers hope to pinpoint
particular years in Earth history to discover the planet`s

They will be able to see what the climate was like
365,250 years ago, for instance, or determine the year of a
catastrophic earthquake, a TAU release said, describing the
40-day project as the largest ever Earth sciences study of its
kind in Israel.

The evidence, according to the university, will help the
world`s climatologists calibrate what they know about climate
change from other geological samples -- and may lead to better
predictions of what`s in store for Middle East weather.

For example, it would reveal whether the present dry and
hot periods in the region are something new or are they part
of some larger cyclical pattern?

What they find should also shed light on earthquake
patterns -- important information for Israelis, Jordanians and
Palestinians who live on or around the fault line that passes
through the Dead Sea region, said the release.

"The sediments provide an `archive` of the environmental
conditions that existed in the area in its geological past,"
Prof Ben-Avraham was quoted as saying.

While the sample being collected isn`t as deep as oil
explorers drill to look for oil, the core will be something
special: it will be kept in an unbroken piece so that records
can be traced more accurately, the researchers said.

The study is being supported by the Israel Sciences
Academy and includes dozens of scientists from America,
Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, and Israel.

Scientists from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority are
also cooperating on this unique event. The researchers come
from a variety of disciplines, from environmental science to
chemistry, and each will get different parts of the core to


First Published: Friday, December 24, 2010 - 16:00
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