Dead Sea drawdown and monsoonal impacts in the Levant during the last interglacial

Torfstein, Adi; Goldstein, Steven L.; Kushnir, Yochanan; Enzel, Yehouda; Haug, Gerald; Stein, Mordechai

Sediment cores recovered by the Dead Sea Deep Drilling Project (DSDDP) from the deepest basin of the hypersaline, terminal Dead Sea (lake floor at ∼725 m below mean sea level) reveal the detailed climate history of the lake's watershed during the last interglacial period (Marine Isotope Stage 5; MIS5). The results document both a more intense aridity during MIS5 than during the Holocene, and the moderating impacts derived from the intense MIS5e African Monsoon. Early MIS5e (∼133–128 ka) was dominated by hyperarid conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean–Levant, indicated by thick halite deposition triggered by a lake-level drop. Halite deposition was interrupted however, during the MIS5e peak (∼128–122 ka) by sequences of flood deposits, which are coeval with the timing of the intense precession-forced African monsoon that generated Mediterranean sapropel S5. A subsequent weakening of this humidity source triggered extreme aridity in the Dead Sea watershed and resulting in the biggest known lake level drawdown in its history, reflected by the deposition of thick salt layers, and a capping pebble layer corresponding to a hiatus at ∼116–110 ka. The DSDDP core provides the first evidence for a direct association of the African monsoon with mid subtropical latitude climate systems effecting the Dead Sea watershed. Combined with coeval deposition of Arabia and southern Negev speleothems, Arava travertines, and calcification of Red Sea corals, the evidence points to a climatically wet corridor that could have facilitated homo sapiens migration “out of Africa” during the MIS5e peak. The hyperaridity documented during MIS5e may provide an important analogue for future warming of arid regions of the Eastern Mediterranean–Levant.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Torfstein_et_al.__2015__EPSL_.pdf Torfstein_et_al.__2015__EPSL_.pdf application/pdf 2.62 MB Download File

Also Published In

Earth and Planetary Science Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Ocean and Climate Physics
Published Here
October 6, 2015