Abstract

The water level in the Dead Sea (Israel and Jordan) has been dropping at an increasing rate since the 1960s, exceeding one meter per year during the last 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 this study, the spatiotemporal evolution of sinkhole-related subsidence and the effect of human activities and land perturbation on sinkhole development are examined through interferometric synthetic aperture radar measurements and field surveys conducted in Israel during 2012. Interferograms are generated using COSMO-SkyMed satellite images and a high-resolution (0.5 m/pixel) elevation model obtained from LiDAR measurements. As a result of this unique combination of high-resolution data sets, millimeter-scale subsidence has been resolved in both natural and human-disturbed environments. Precursory subsidence over a period of a few months occurred before the collapse of all three sinkhole sites reported in this study. The centers of the subsiding areas migrated, possibly due to progressive dissolution and widening of the underlying cavities. Filling of newly formed sinkholes with gravel, and mud injections into drill holes, seem to enhance land subsidence, enlarge existing sinkholes, and form new sinkholes. Apart from shedding light on the mechanical process, the results of this study may pave the way for the implementation of an operational sinkhole early-warning system.

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