The water level in the Dead Sea has been dropping at an increasing rate since the 1960s, exceeding a meter per year during the past decade. This drop has triggered the formation of sinkholes and widespread land subsidence along the Dead Sea shoreline, resulting in severe economic loss and infrastructural damage.

In a new paper, researchers examined the spatiotemporal evolution of sinkhole-related subsidence using Satellite based Interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) measurements and field surveys, and resolved millimeteric-scale precursory subsidence in all sinkhole sites that they examined in Israel during 2012.

Toward an operational sinkhole early warning system along the Dead Sea 

Interferograms were generated using COSMO-SkyMed satellite images and a high-resolution (0.5 m/pixel) elevation model obtained from LiDAR measurements. It seems that filling of newly formed sinkholes with gravel and mud injections into drill-holes enhance land subsidence, enlarge existing sinkholes and form new sinkholes. 

Apart from shedding light on the mechanical process, the results of our study may pave the way for the implementation of an operational sinkhole early warning system.

Paper: Ran N. Nof et al., Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Mailbox 653, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel. First published on 3 July 2013, DOI:10.1130/G34505.1.