PALEX – Paleoclimate Research in the Middle East

Extreme hydro-meteorological events like flash floods occur regularly during the wet season in the Dead Sea basin (southern Levante) and adjacent mountain ranges. When entering the Dead Sea, the lake sediments transported by those flash floods spread forming a sediment plume.

Extreme hydrometeorological events and especially floods are a major threat for humans. Therefore, it is an emerging challenge for science to investigate origin and mechanisms of floods in order to better anticipate their frequency and amplitudes as well as their impacts on regional environments. A very sensitive region in terms of both environmental conditions and the political situation is the Dead Sea area in the Near East. Ongoing global change is expected to even increase the environmental pressure and in particular hydrological processes in this part of the world. Therefore, this is an ideal and highly interesting region for Earth and environmental research. The PALEX project addresses all aspects of extreme hydro-meteorological events in this region through a joint effort of scientist from Israel, Palestine and Germany within the trilateral program of the German Science Foundation DFG.

We apply a novel approach of combining the observation of recent flash floods using cutting-edge technologies with advanced reconstructions of long flood time-series over several thousand years from the Dead Sea sediment record at high temporal resolution. In this respect, the long sediment cores obtained by the ICDP (International Continental Scientific Drilling Program) drilling from the deep basin of the Dead Sea provide a unique archive to reconstruct the natural hydro-climatic variability for the last 200 kyrs. In addition, the comprehensive process understanding of the meteorological origin of floods and their effects on erosion, sediment transport and deposition revealed by our combined meteorological and sedimentological monitoring allows an improved interpretation of this exceptional sediment record to utilize event-triggered sediments as proxies for past flooding. With this approach we aim at investigating the relation of changes in the occurrence and dynamics of floods to changing climatic boundary conditions and test the predicted increase of extreme floods in a warming climate.

Particularly we aim in work packages:

  • To establish a high-resolution time series of hydro-meteorological events in the Dead Sea watershed applying microfacies analyses and µXRF scanning, (GFZ/HUJI/AQU)
  • To reveal sources of sediments and modes of transport processes by installing flash flood monitoring stations in a representative wadi, (AQU/HUJI)
  • To trace sources of inflowing waters by analyzing the chemical and isotopic composition of primary aragonite, (AQU/HUJI)
  • To link sediment proxies to meteorological conditions and flash flood regimes by applying hydro-meteorological models simulating flash floods and sediment flow. (GFZ/AQU/HUJI)

Beyond the scientific goals, PALEX undertakes major efforts in capacity building and international networking in the Middle East to foster peaceful collaboration for solving common problems and development of human and technical resources. A crucial part of the project concept, therefore, is joint training of early stage researchers from Palestine, Israel and Germany. The PALEX personal mentoring concept will give young scientists the opportunity to work closely with senior scientists from all participating institutions and develop their research skills.

Participants of the PALEX summer school 2016 at the GFZ in Potsdam, photo E. Gantz
Wadi Zeelim with Dead Sea, view to the east in direction mountains of the Jordanian Plateau, photo M. Schwab
Laminated Dead Sea sediments, ICDP core 5017-1.
Lithology and general stratigraphy of Dead Sea ICDP core 5017-1. Zoom out of the younger lake level history of the Dead Sea (modified after Torfstein et al. (2013) and Neugebauer et al. (2014). Study intervals of the PALEX project for micro facies analyses marked by rectangles.
b) Collection of ICDP cores from the IODP Core Repository at the MARUM in Bremen. c) Sampling for thin-sections in the laboratory of the GFZ by a HUJI PALEX PhD student, photos: M. Ahlborn, PALEX.
PALEX field school at a Wadi Ghar/Arugot monitoring site, photo: M. Schwab.
PALEX Early Stage Researcher during the PALEX summer school 2016.
Installation of PALEX monitoring/sampling equipment in Wadi Ghar/Arugot, photo: PALEX.
Training of the AQU partners by Yamma Company at the HUJI to manage PALEX monitoring stations in Wadi Ghar/Arugot and the catchment, photo: E. Morin.
Event related deposits of the Lisan Formation in the ICDP Dead Sea core their interpretation, b) core photo with slump and associated graded layer; thin section scans (under polarizing foil) from three studied time intervals c) the Middle Lisan Formation (105.51 m sediment depth); d) the Upper Lisan Formation (89.48 m sediment depth); and e) the Lower Ze’elim Formation (67.34m sediment depth).
  • Neugebauer, I., Wulf, S., Schwab, M. J., Serb, J., Plessen, B., Appelt, O., Brauer, A. (2017): Implications of S1 tephra findings in Dead Sea and Tayma palaeolake sediments for marine reservoir age estimation and palaeoclimate synchronisation. - Quaternary Science Reviews, 170, p. 269-275.| doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.06.020


Achim Brauer
Section Head
Prof. Dr.Achim Brauer
Climate Dynamics and Landscape Evolution
Building C, Room 324
+49 331 288-1330


Markus Schwab
Dr.Markus Schwab
Climate Dynamics and Landscape Evolution
Building C, Room 455
+49 331 288-1388