Hydrological and thermodynamic controls on late Holocene gypsum formation by mixing saline groundwater and Dead Sea brine

TitleHydrological and thermodynamic controls on late Holocene gypsum formation by mixing saline groundwater and Dead Sea brine
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsWeber, N, Antler, G, Lazar, B, Stein, M, Yechieli, Y, Gavrieli, I
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Pagination363 - 383
Date PublishedJan-01-2022
KeywordsBrinesSaline springs, Dead Sea, Hydroclimate, Lacustrine Gypsum, Outsalting, Thermodynamic modeling

The rapid retreat of the Dead Sea during the past four decades led to the exposure of unique structures of massive gypsum along the shores. Many of these structures (having the shape of mounds) are associated with the activity of Ein Qedem-type saline springs that currently discharge Ca-chloride brine to the lake. Field observations, radiocarbon dating of aragonite (within the gypsum mounds) that yield ancient ages, and the narrow range of 834S and 818O values (d34Sgyp: 14.1-16.9%; d18Ogyp: 14.4-16.5%) indicates that the formation of the gypsum structures is related to the mixing of brines: the Dead Sea brine and ancient (last glacial) Ein Qedem type brine. These are Ca-chloride brines having different salinities and sulfur concentrations that satisfy conditions of an outsalting process whereby supersaturation of gypsum is attained by the mixing of these two brines in the offshore shallow water environment. Thermodynamic calculations (using the PHREEQC software) show that gypsum outsalting occurred when both brines were enriched with sulfate as compared to the present. The Ein-Qedem brine had higher sulfate when subjected to less intensive bacterial sulfate reduction. The Dead Sea was characterized by higher sulfate concentrations during intervals of low lake stands. The conditions of higher sulfate concentrations and enhanced discharge of the saline springs occurred repeatedly in the Dead Sea between -6.6 to 0.6 ka and were intermittent with periods of enhanced supply of sulfate to the lake by freshwaters.