The Sea of Galilee’s Water Levels are on the Rise

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The Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea of Tiberias, Lake Tiberias, Lake of Gennesaret, and Lake Kinneret), located in northeast Israel, is the world’s lowest freshwater lake. After the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee is the world’s second-lowest lake in the world.

The lake measures 21 kilometers (13 miles) north-south, and it is only 43 meters (141 feet) deep.

Most of the inflow of water to the Sea of Galilee arrives via the Jordan River from the north, although some underground springs drain into the lake. Water levels have been dropping for the past two decades, reaching a nearly all-time low in 2018.

For the winter of 2019, the Sea of Galilee was measured at 212 meters below sea level, not far from the all-time low of 214.87 meters below sea level measured in 2001.

As water levels have dropped, the lake has become saltier, impacting its ability to supply drinking water. Saltier waters also impacts the fish population and encourages algae blooms.

Two wet winters since 2018 have brought the water level to 209.9 meters (688.6 feet) below sea level as measured on December 16, 2020. This brings the Sea only 1.105 meters from the maximum level of 208.80 meters below sea level.

This Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this false-color image (bands 6-5-4) of the lake and its surrounding landscape on October 27, 2020. 

Landsat 8 false-color image of the Sea of Galilee.  Image: NASA, acquired October 27, 2020.
Landsat 8 false-color image of the Sea of Galilee. Image: NASA, acquired October 27, 2020.

The neon green land surrounding the Sea of Galilee and to the south is mostly farmland converted from marshy floodplains. Diversion of water for agricultural purposes is one of the reasons that researchers believe is responsible for the lowering water levels of the lake.

References

Heavy rains swell Kinneret. (2020, December 16). Globes – Israel Business News. https://en.globes.co.il/en/article-Heavy-rains-swell-Kinneret-1001353350

Voiland, A. (2020, December 19). Sea of Galilee. NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/147685/sea-of-galilee

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