Mean, variance and trends of Levant precipitation over the past 4500 years from reconstructed Dead Sea lake levels and stochastic modeling


A novel quantitative assessment of late Holocene precipitation in the Levant is presented, including mean and variance of annual precipitation and their trends. A stochastic framework was utilized and allowed, possibly for the first time, linking high-quality, reconstructed rises/declines in Dead Sea levels with precipitation trends in its watershed. We determined the change in mean annual precipitation for 12 specific intervals over the past 4500 yr, concluding that: (1) the twentieth century was substantially wetter than most of the late Holocene; (2) a representative reference value of mean annual precipitation is 75% of the present-day parameter; (3) during the late Holocene, mean annual precipitation ranged between −17 and +66% of the reference value (−37 to +25% of present-day conditions); (4) the driest intervals were 1500–1200 BC and AD 755–890, and the wettest intervals were 2500–2460 BC, 130–40 BC, AD 350–490, and AD 1770–1940; (5) lake-level rises and declines probably occurred in response to trends in precipitation means and are less likely to occur when precipitation mean is constant; (6) average trends in mean annual precipitation during intervals of ≥200 yr did not exceed 15mm per decade. The precipitation trends probably reflect shifts in eastern Mediterranean cyclone tracks.