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

Pavel Kishcha, Rachel T. Pinker, Isaac Gertman, Boris Starobinets, Pinhas Alpert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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 °C decade-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 °C decade-1) and nighttime (0.4 °C decade-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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3007-3018
Number of pages12
JournalNatural Hazards and Earth System Sciences
Volume18
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 13 Nov 2018

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