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Volume 18, issue 11 | Copyright

Special issue: Environmental changes and hazards in the Dead Sea region (NHESS/ACP/HESS/SE...

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 3007-3018, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-18-3007-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 13 Nov 2018

Research article | 13 Nov 2018

Observations of positive sea surface temperature trends in the steadily shrinking Dead Sea

Pavel Kishcha1, Rachel T. Pinker2, Isaac Gertman3, Boris Starobinets1, and Pinhas Alpert1 Pavel Kishcha et al.
  • 1Department of Geophysics, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, 69978, Israel
  • 2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
  • 3Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, National Institute of Oceanography, Haifa, 31080, Israel

Abstract. Increasing warming of steadily shrinking Dead Sea surface water compensates for surface water cooling (due to increasing evaporation) and even causes observed positive Dead Sea sea surface temperature trends. This warming is caused by two factors: increasing daytime heat flow from land to sea (as a result of the steady shrinking) and regional atmospheric warming. Using observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), positive trends were detected in both daytime and nighttime Dead Sea sea surface temperature (SST) over the period of 2000–2016. These positive SST trends were observed in the absence of positive trends in surface solar radiation, measured by the Dead Sea buoy pyranometer. We also show that long-term changes in water mixing in the uppermost layer of the Dead Sea under strong winds could not explain the observed SST trends. There is a positive feedback loop between the positive SST trends and the steady shrinking of the Dead Sea, which contributes to the accelerating decrease in Dead Sea water levels during the period under study. Satellite-based SST measurements showed that maximal SST trends of over 0.8°Cdecade−1 were observed over the northwestern and southern sides of the Dead Sea, where shrinking of the Dead Sea water area was pronounced. No noticeable SST trends were observed over the eastern side of the lake, where shrinking of the Dead Sea water area was insignificant. This finding demonstrates correspondence between the positive SST trends and the shrinking of the Dead Sea indicating a causal link between them. There are two opposite processes taking place in the Dead Sea: sea surface warming and cooling. On the one hand, the positive feedback loop leading to sea surface warming every year accompanied by long-term increase in SST; on the other hand, the measured acceleration of the Dead Sea water-level drop suggests a long-term increase in Dead Sea evaporation accompanied by a long-term decrease in SST. During the period under investigation, the total result of these two opposite processes is the statistically significant positive sea surface temperature trends in both daytime (0.6°Cdecade−1) and nighttime (0.4°Cdecade−1), observed by the MODIS instrument. Our findings of the existence of a positive feedback loop between the positive SST trends and the shrinking of the Dead Sea imply the following significant point: any meteorological, hydrological or geophysical process causing the steady shrinking of the Dead Sea will contribute to positive trends in SST. Our results shed light on continuing hazards to the Dead Sea.

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Increasing warming of steadily shrinking Dead Sea surface water was observed during the period of 2000–2016. We found that a positive feedback loop between the steady shrinking of the Dead Sea and positive sea surface temperature (SST) trends causes the acceleration of Dead Sea shrinking. Our findings imply the following essential point: any meteorological, hydrological or geophysical process causing steady shrinking of the Dead Sea will contribute to positive trends in SST.
Increasing warming of steadily shrinking Dead Sea surface water was observed during the period...
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