Increased frequency of torrential rainstorms during a regional late Holocene eastern Mediterranean drought

Marieke Ahlborn, Moshe Armon, Yoav Ben Dor, Ina Neugebauer, Markus J. Schwab, Rik Tjallingii, Jawad Hasan Shoqeir, Efrat Morin, Yehouda Enzel, Achim Brauer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identifying climates favoring extreme weather phenomena is a primary aim of paleoclimate and paleohydrological research. Here, we present a well-dated, late Holocene Dead Sea sediment record of debris flows covering 3.3 to 1.9 cal ka BP. Twenty-three graded layers deposited in shallow waters near the western Dead Sea shore were identified by microfacies analysis. These layers represent distal subaquatic deposits of debris flows triggered by torrential rainstorms over the adjacent western Dead Sea escarpment. Modern debris flows on this escarpment are induced by rare rainstorms with intensities exceeding >30 mm h-1 for at least one hour and originate primarily from the Active Red Sea Trough synoptic pattern. The observed late Holocene clustering of such debris flows during a regional drought indicates an increased influence of Active Red Sea Troughs resulting from a shift in synoptic atmospheric circulation patterns. This shift likely decreased the passages of eastern Mediterranean cyclones, leading to drier conditions, but favored rainstorms triggered by the Active Red Sea Trough. This is in accord with present-day meteorological data showing an increased frequency of torrential rainstorms in regions of drier climate. Hence, this study provides conclusive evidence for a shift in synoptic atmospheric circulation patterns during a late Holocene drought.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)425-431
Number of pages7
JournalQuaternary Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Active Red Sea Trough
  • Dead Sea
  • Debris flows
  • Drought
  • Floods
  • Holocene
  • Lake sediments
  • Levant
  • Mediterranean cyclones
  • Paleoclimate

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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