Holocene stratigraphy of the Dead Sea: Correlation of high-resolution seismic reflection profiles to sediment cores

Zvi Ben-Avraham*, Tina M. Niemi, Christoph Heim, Joerg Negendank, Amos Nur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The northern basin of the Dead Sea is occupied by a ∼300-m-deep lake. A series of cores in the deep-water part of the lake provide information about the top 365 cm of the sediments. The cores were correlated with high-resolution 3.5-kHz seismic profiles from this area and provide lithologic and age constraints for the high-resolution seismic reflection data. Visual comparison of the two data sets shows that strong surface and shallow subsurface reflectors (A and B) correlate to the massive salt at the seafloor surface and the indurated salt at the base of the cores, respectively. Calculations of an average seismic velocity based on the interval between these reflectors and the corresponding sedimentary thickness yield an average 3500 m/s velocity. This agrees closely with velocities determined from direct measurements of compressional velocities for sediment samples. Ultrasonic wave velocity measurements of salt samples from the cores and dry rock salt cores from the southern basin of the Dead Sea indicate that wave velocities are independent of the burial depth at shallow depths; however, velocities show strong dependence on porosity. At low hydrostatic pressure a reduction in porosity as well as closure of microcracks in the crystals cause an increase in the velocities. This increase disappears at higher stress levels. Synthetic seismograms of the upper 3 ms and the entire 25 ms penetrated by the seismic profiles reinforce the lithologic and seismic stratigraphic correlation and confirm that prominent reflectors in the basin represent the top boundary of halite layers which are separated by laminated sequences of evaporites and elastics. The salt in the upper salt sequence is deposited at a very fast rate of more than 20 mm/yr. However, at shallow depths, considerable compaction takes place. Variations in appearance and velocities of the upper salt sequence and middle salt sequence indicate that the porous, granular, and fine-grained precipitates of the surface salts are diagenetically altered to a coarse and compact crystalline aggregate by re-solution and crystallization with burial. The sedimentary sequences recovered in the cores suggest that significant lake level fluctuations took place in the past in response to climatic changes. The detailed correlation of the cores and seismic profiles makes it possible to extrapolate climatic data from earlier periods beneath the maximum core penetration by analyzing the seismic stratigraphic sequences of the seismic reflection data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1999JB900084
Pages (from-to)17617-17625
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue numberB8
StatePublished - 10 Aug 1999


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