Egypt: A 5,000-year-old river could be resurrected to bring sustainable agriculture to one of the planet”s rainiest yet driest deserts, according to a study. The desert of the Sinai Peninsula receives the most rainfall of any part of Egypt — around 304 millimeters annually but most of it is of no benefit to agriculture, instead flowing out into the Mediterranean Sea in flash floods. The geological record shows that the Sinai region was much wetter between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago. Using satellite radar images to visualise ancient river beds that have since been buried under surface deposits, the team compared the modern day topography with the paths of the ancient river channels from this wetter period. The river was diverted from its original course when geological uplift formed an arch of stratified rock called an anticline that blocked its path.
“This method of identifying subterranean features by using space-borne radar has been used previously and is an effective imaging tool,” says Paul Tregoning, a remote sensing expert from the Australian National University, who was not involved in this study. “The authors show quite clearly the location of what appear to be ancient river beds beneath the anticline that is visible in today”s topography.”
“Accessing that depression would allow its stored water to be used for agriculture,” says Farouk El-Baz, an author of the paper and director of the Center for Remote Sensing.