THE Dead Sea is, as its name implies, far too salty to be of use to fishermen or farmers. But its mineral-rich waters are valued by the owners of the spas that thrive along its shores in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territory of the West Bank. The spa industry, however, faces a threat from a plague of sinkholes that have struck in recent years. These have damaged roads and buildings at Ein Gedi beach, in Israel, and hit the Mineral Beach Spa in Mitzpe Shalem, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, so hard that it is unusable.
Until now, it has been impossible to predict more than a few weeks in advance where a sinkhole will appear. But, as he reports in Geology, Meir Abelson of the Geological Survey of Israel thinks he can change that. Employing buried monitoring devices, he believes he can forecast where such holes will form several years before they actually do so.