Drainage Mechanisms of Submerged Sinkholes

Assaf Tsabar, Eyal Shalev, Amir Sagy, Yizhaq Makovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Subsurface salt layer dissolution along the western shores of the Dead Sea is considered to be the primary cause for extensive large sinkhole formation in the past 40 years. Many of these sinkholes are arranged in clusters and are filled with water from nearby springs. The Mineral Beach resort was built in an area with a thermal spring with water emerging at around 40 °C at the Shalem sinkhole cluster. Unfortunately, the same spring was responsible for the destruction of the resort as it supplied water undersaturated with respect to halite, which promoted dissolution and sinkhole formation. The sinkholes in the Shalem cluster drain out in sudden catastrophic events and then slowly fill again. The drainage mechanisms of this phenomenon are studied in the Shalem-2 sinkhole cluster using leveling data collectors and ground-based LiDAR surveys over a period of 5 years, including thirty-five drainage events. Drainage volume and fluxes calculated using water level and topographic data obtained by LiDAR scans suggest that the formation of additional sinkholes beneath the pond’s bottom triggers drainage events. The subsequent flux shows that the evolution of the newly formed sinkholes either improves the hydraulic connection or temporarily seals the connection between the surface pond and deeper caverns/aquifers. The drainage event ends when either the hydraulic connection is sealed or when the level of water in the pond drops to the level of the newly formed sinkhole. The large volumes of drained water and drainage fluxes imply the existence of a well-developed active underground draining system.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4384
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • Dead Sea
  • salt karst
  • sinkhole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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