DFG-Leibniz Center for Surface Process and Climate Studies





Mission Statement




Continuing Education







Levante Project: Millennial to decadal climate and seismic cycles in the Holocene Dead Sea

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Leibniz Award to G. Haug), German Israeli Foundation (GIF grant), GFZ Potsdam
Starting date: September, 2007

Gerald H. Haug (PI), Markus J. Schwab (co-PI)

Collaborating researchers (PI’s only)

M. Stein (Geological Survey of Israel), A. Agnon (Hebrew University Jerusalem), A. Brauer, U. Frank (GFZ Potsdam), F. Neumann (University Bonn)


The Levant, the coastal region and hinterland of the Eastern Mediterranean, comprises most of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. This region is an integral part of what has been called the ‘Fertile Crescent’, where the origins of agriculture are rooted and human impact on surface processes dates back to more than 10,000 years.

research Levante

Fig. 1 Setting of the eastern Mediterranean region

The Dead Sea, situated at the transition between the Arabian Desert and the Mediterranean climatic zones is a potential location to study climatic fluctuations in the Near East, due to well preserved laminated lacustrine sediments. In addition, being situated at an extensional step along the seismically active Dead Sea Transform, the Dead Sea is is also a perfect natural archive of paleoseismicity, which is reflected in seismogenic event horizons. Our study thus focuses on both, the environmental history of the Dead Sea-Jordan rift, the effects of regional seismicity, and the effects of these forcing facotrs on early societies during the Holocene.

Environmental and climatic variability is reflected by major changes in the paleo-hydrological (precipitation) regime, modes of aeolian (dust) transport to the region, and the development of sediments, soils and vegetation. In particular, the Levant region constitutes an outstanding natural laboratory to study such phenomena. The study of Dead Sea sediments not only allows to decipher the rich interactions between climate change and sedimentary phenomena, the effect of seismicity on sedimentary processes, but also to assess environmental changes in light of the human dimension and socio-economic aspects.

The study is based on previous joint projects carried out by Israeli and German groups from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and GFZ Potsdam, repectively.

Fig 2 Gully

Fig. 2
(left): Ein Feshkha gully (2005) and location of drill-site (marked by yellow arrow).
(right): 7 cm thick Aragonite brecciated laminated section

Our principal goals in this study are

Establishing millennial to decadal to seasonal-scale geochemical-limnological records of the Holocene variations in the Dead Sea rift by examining sedimentary archives of the hypersaline Dead Sea. Perform a high-resolution counting of the laminated segments of the Holocene sections, measure thickness of detrital, aragonite, and gypsum laminae, and use the data for time series analyses of limnological-climatic variability.

Comparing on millennial to decadal timescales the local limnological-hydrological records to other regional and global paleoclimate reconstructions. We will focus on specific Holocene time intervals, such as the Little Ice Age and the Mid-Holocene warm period in order to obtain a more comprehensive view of the spatial and temporal evolution of such climate excursions.

Establishing a regional high-resolution documentation of the paleoseismic record for most of the Holocene period with a spatial control. We have focused on the period 100 B.C.-1700 A.D. We will systematically extend the analysis to all laminated lacustrine sections of cores and to samples from exposed sequences. Furthermore, we will map the spatial extent of deformed units to better assess the earthquake sources and their long-term temporal behaviour.

Examining the relation between climate change and civilization in the Near East, and evaluating possible environmental impact on current climate.

Fig 3laminated core DSF B3 (Ein Feshkha)

Fig. 3 Example for variation of element Calcium in laminated core DSF B3 (Ein Feshkha). Variation currently used for characterization of annual and non-annual lamination, of event-layers (deformed layers and breccia layers).


Ken-Tor, R., A. Agnon, Y. Enzel, M. Stein, S. Marco, J. F. W. Negendank (2001) High-resolution geological record of historic earthquakes in the Dead Sea basin. J. of Geophysical Res., 106 (B2): 2221-2234.

Migowski, C., Agnon, A., Bookman, R., Negendank, J.F.W. and Stein, M. (2004) Recurrence pattern of Holocene earthquakes along the Dead Sea transform revealed by varve-counting and radiocarbon dating of lacustrine sediments. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 222(1): 301-314.

Migowski C., Stein M., Prasad S., Negendank J. F.W. and Agnon A. (2006) Dead
Sea levels, climate variability and human culture evolution in the Holocene Near
East. Quat. Res. 66:421-431.

Neumann F., Kagan E. Schwab M.J. and Stein M. (2007) Holocene Palaeoecology of the
Dead Sea: Palynological and Sedimentological Studies at exposed paleo-lake sites
in recent erosion gullies. Quat. Science Review 26:1476-1498.

Marco, S., M. Stein, A. Agnon, H. Ron (1996). Long-term earthquake clustering: A 50,000-year paleoseismic record in the Dead Sea Graben. J. of Geophysical Research, 101(B3): 6179-6192.