Sinkhole formation and subsidence along the Dead Sea coast, Israel

Yoseph Yechieli, Meir Abelson, Gideon Baer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


More than 4,000 sinkholes have formed since the 1980s within a 60-km-long and 1-km-wide strip along the western coast of the Dead Sea (DS) in Israel. Their formation rate accelerated in recent years to >400 sinkholes per year. They cluster mostly in specific sites up to 1,000 m long and 200mwide, which align parallel to the general direction of the fault systems associated with the DS Rift. The abrupt appearance of the sinkholes reflects changes to the groundwater regime around the shrinking DS. The eastward retreat of the shoreline and the lake-level drop (1 m/year in recent years) cause an eastward and downward migration of the fresh/saline groundwater interface. Consequently, a subsurface salt layer, which was previously enveloped by saline groundwater, is gradually being invaded and submerged by relatively fresh groundwater, and cavities form due to the rapid dissolution of the salt. Collapse of the overlying sediments into these cavities results in sinkholes at the surface. An association between sinkhole sites and land subsidence is revealed by interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) measurements. On a broad scale (hundreds of meters), subsidence occurs due to compaction of fine-grained sediments as groundwater levels decline along the retreating DS shoreline. At smaller scales (tens of meters), subsidence appears above subsurface cavities in association with the sinkholes, serving in many cases as sinkhole precursors, a few weeks to more than a year before their actual appearance at the surface. This paper overviews the processes of sinkhole formation and their relation to land subsidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-612
Number of pages12
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 23 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Geohazards
  • Israel
  • Salt-water/freshwater interface
  • Sinkholes
  • Subsidence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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