Possible connection between large volcanic eruptions and level rise episodes in the Dead Sea Basin

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Revital Bookman, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel, Sagi Filin, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, Israel, Yoav Avni, Geological Survey of Israel, Jerusalem, Israel, Daniel Rosenfeld, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel and Shmuel Marco, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
The June 1991 Pinatubo volcanic eruption perturbed the atmosphere, triggering short-term worldwide changes in climate. The following winter was anomalously wet in the Levant, with a ~2-meter increase in the Dead Sea level that created a morphological terrace along the lake's shore. Given the global effects of volcanogenic aerosols, we tested the hypothesis that the 1991-92 shore terrace is a modern analogue to the linkage between past volcanic eruptions and a sequence of shore terraces in the Dead Sea Basin.

Analysis of precipitation series from Jerusalem showed a significant positive correlation between the Dust Veil Index (DVI) of the modern eruptions and annual rainfall. The DVI was found to explain nearly 50% of the variability in the annual rainfall, such that greater DVI means more rainfall. Other factors that may affect the annual rainfall in the region as the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) and the North Atlantic oscillations (NAO) were incorporated along with the DVI in a linear multiple regression model. It was found that the NAO did not contribute anything except for increased noise, but the added SOI increased the explained variability of rainfall to more than 60%.

Volcanic eruptions with a VEI of 6, as in the Pinatubo, occurred about once a century during the Holocene and the last glacial-interglacial cycle. This occurrence is similar to the frequency of shore terrace build-up during the Lake Lisan desiccation. Sixteen shore terraces, detected using airborne laser scanning data, were interpreted as indicating short-term level rises due to episodes of enhanced precipitation and runoff during the dramatic drop in Lake Lisan’s (palaeo-Dead Sea) level at the end of the LGM. The terraces were compared with a time series of volcanogenic sulfate from the GISP2 record, and similar numbers of sulfate concentration peaks and terraces were found. Furthermore, a significant correlation was found between SO4 concentration peaks and the terraces heights. This correlation may indicate a link between the explosivity, magnitude of stratospheric injection, and the impact on the northern hemisphere water balance. The record of such short-term climato-hydrological effects is made possible by the dramatic desiccation of Lake Lisan. Detailed records of such events provide a demonstration of global climatic teleconnections.