History

When the Mediterranean Flooded

Around 6 million years ago, the African and Eurasian plates moved together, cutting the Mediterranean Sea off from the Atlantic. Without an influx of water from the Atlantic, evaporation began removing more water from the Mediterranean than rivers could replace. The sea dried out almost completely over the course of a couple thousand years.

About 5.3 million years ago, the Straits of Gibraltar reopened, creating a massive flood into the Mediterranean known as the Zanclean Flood. Water rushed down the straits and into the Mediterranean at speeds as high as 40 m/s (90 mph). At its peak, the Zanclean Flood is estimated to have reached rates 1000 times greater than the volumetric flow rate of the Amazon River.

A similar breach flood occurred in the Black Sea within the past 10,000 years when the Bosporus became unblocked. That flood likely had a devastating impact on Neolithic societies in the area and may be the inspiration for the floods described in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible. (Image credit: BBC, source)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: