The Zanclean Flood

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Periodically throughout history the Mediterranean Sea has been closed off from the Atlantic Ocean by the continued northward movement of the African Tectonic Plate into the Eurasian Tectonic Plate. When this happens the Mediterranean Sea slowly begins to evaporate. Over the course of a thousand years or so it dries out nearly completely.


This produces a huge desert that is 3-5 km below sea level. Possibly some incredibly salty lakes also. Near the bottom the air pressure would be about 150% of that at sea level and the adiabatically heated air would have reached 80°C (176 °F) in the summer. This set of circumstances is known as The Messinian Salinity Crisis.


About 5.3 million years ago this crisis came to an end when the waters of the Atlantic found their way into the empty basin through erosion. At first just a trickle which eroded a deeper channel, which brought more and more water until there was a 200 km wide waterfall pouring unbelievable volumes of water into the basin. This catastrophic flood is known as The Zanclean Flood. The channel cut by the flood still exists today in the form of The Strait of Gibraltar.

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This page contains a single entry by published on April 12, 2010 11:52 PM.

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