Optical properties of the Dead Sea

Emmanuel Boss, Hezi Gildor, Wayne Slade, Leonid Sokoletsky, Aharon Oren, James Loftin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Dead Sea, located in the rift valley between Jordan and Israel, is a hypersaline lake, resulting in unique biogeochemistry and optical properties. In the spring of 2004 we conducted two days of physical and optical measurements in the lake. Because of the significant effect of dissolved salts on the optical properties of water, our analysis required a novel processing approach to obtain dissolved and total inherent optical properties from the measurements. In addition, we show that the lake's salinity can be estimated from measurements of hyper-spectral absorption or attenuation spectra in the red and infrared parts of the spectrum, using published values of specific absorption of dissolved NaCl, despite the fact that the lake's salt chemistry is complex. In situ observations demonstrated that the lake has a two-layer structure with a warm and more turbid layer at the top 20-30 m and a clearer colder layer below. Both the particulate and dissolved absorption are well approximated by exponentially decreasing functions with the spectral slope of the particulate absorption about half that of the dissolved fraction and consistent with other aquatic environments. Both have relatively low and similar magnitudes in the blue (O(0.15 m-1)). Mean particle size was observed to increase with depth, consistent with precipitating salt crystals (observed in past campaigns) shown here to play a major role in the lake's optical properties.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1821-1829
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • Dead Sea
  • hypersaline lakes
  • inherent optical properties

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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