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TEM study of the geoelectrical structure and groundwater salinity of the Nahal Hever sinkhole site, Dead Sea shore, Israel

Abstract : Since the 1990s a large number of sinkholes have appeared in the Dead Sea (DS) coastal area. Sinkhole development was triggered by the lowering of the DS level. In the literature the relationship between the sinkholes and the DS level is explained by intrusion of relatively fresh water into the aquifer thereby dramatically accelerating the salt dissolution with creation of subsurface caverns, which in turn cause sinkholes. The main goal of our project was detection and localization of relatively fresh groundwater. During our study we used the transient electromagnetic method (TEM) to measure the electrical resistivity of the subsurface. As a test site we selected Nahal Hever South which is typical for the DS coast. Our results show that resistivity of the shallow subsurface reflects its vertical and lateral structure, e.g., its main hydrogeological elements explain the inter-relations between geology, hydrogeology, and sinkholes. The TEM method has allowed detailed differentiation of layers (clay, salt, etc.) in the subsurface based on their bulk resistivity. The 10 m-thick salt layer composed of idiomorphic crystals of halite deposited during the earlier Holocene period was extrapolated from borehole HS-2 through the study area. It was found that in Nahal Hever the typical value of the bulk resistivity of clay saturated with the DS brine varies between 0.2 and 0.3 Ωm, whereas saturated gravel and sandy sediments are characterized by resistivity between 0.4 and 0.6 Ωm. The high water salinity of the aquifer (enveloping the salt layer) expressed in terms of resistivity is also an important characterization of the sinkhole development mechanism. The electrical resistivity of the aquifer in the vicinity of the salt unit and its western border did not exceed 1 Ωm (in most cases aquifer resistivity was 0.2-0.6 Ωm) proving that, in accordance with existing criteria, the pores of the alluvial sediments are filled with highly mineralized DS brine. However, we suggest that the criterion of the aquifer resistivity responsible for the salt dissolution should be decreased from 1 Ωm to 0.6 Ωm corresponding to the chloride concentration of approximately 100 g/l (the chloride saturation condition reaches 224 g/l in the northern DS basin and 280 g/l in the southern one). Based on TEM results we can reliably conclude that in 2005, when most of sinkholes had appeared at the surface, salt was located within a very low resistivity environment inside sediments saturated with DS brine. Intrusion of relatively fresh groundwater into the aquifer through the 600 × 600 m2area affected by sinkholes has not been observed.
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Submitted on : Monday, December 5, 2011 - 3:22:13 PM
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M. Ezersky, A. Legchenko, A. Al-Zoubi, E. Levi, E. Akkawi, et al.. TEM study of the geoelectrical structure and groundwater salinity of the Nahal Hever sinkhole site, Dead Sea shore, Israel. Journal of Applied Geophysics, Elsevier, 2011, 75 (1), pp.99-112. ⟨10.1016/j.jappgeo.2011.06.011⟩. ⟨insu-00648355⟩



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