Doomed sea wins reprieve

THE Dead Sea may live, say scientists in Jerusalem. Diversion of the River Jordan to supply cities and agriculture has lowered the water level by 20 metres since the early 1960s, and there were fears that the inland sea could disappear completely. Its surface—already 410 metres below sea level—is the lowest point above water on Earth and is still dropping by 80 centimetres a year. But four scientists with the Geological Survey of Israel have calculated that the fall will stop in about 400 years. They say in this month’s Geology (vol 26, p 755) that increasing salinity will slow the lake’s evaporation until it no longer outpaces the influx from ground water and the Jordan. Although the few microorganisms that inhabit the briny water may not survive the higher levels of salt (“Left for Dead”, New Scientist, 8 February 1997, p 37), the team estimates that the sea will stabilise at a depth of 200 metres,
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