When the Mediterranean Sea Dried Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2022

About 5.9 million years ago, due to a combination of tectonic movements and changes in climate, the Mediterranean Sea mostly dried up for over 600,000 years. The Messinian salinity crisis may have raised global sea levels by as much as 33 feet and decreased the salinity of the world’s oceans, raising the freezing point. And then, much more suddenly, it was refilled in less than two years in the Zanclean Flood.

Two years to refill the whole Mediterranean! Apparently the water level rose at 30 feet per day, fed by a river that carried 1000 times more water than the Amazon at velocities exceeding 88 mph. When the water reached a barrier near present-day Sicily, it flowed into the eastern basin via a mile-high waterfall in which the water was moving at 100 mph. The weight of so much water moving into the area so quickly would have triggered seismic activity, resulting in landslides that could have produced tsunamis with wave heights of 330 feet. So much wow!

Anyway, watch the PBS Eons video above for the whole story. And then check out this animation of what the drying up and the flood may have looked like.

P.S. For XKCD, Randall Munroe wrote a comic called Time that unfolded over a series of four months and was based on a future Zanclean-like flood. (via open culture)