Mediterranean Sea dried up five million years ago

Feb 16, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Upward movement of the Earth's crust transformed the Straits of Gibraltar into a dam. Approximately five million years ago, the Mediterranean Sea dried up after it was sealed off from the Atlantic Ocean. According to earth scientist Rob Govers of Utrecht University, Netherlands, a reduction in the weight on the Earth's crust led to the Straits of Gibraltar moving upwards.

Govers will publish his conclusions in the February issue of the earth sciences journal Geology.

Much like a mattress springs back into shape after you get off it, the Earth’s crust moves upwards when sea levels fall. Known as isostasy, this phenomenon explains how the Mediterranean Sea was sealed off from the Atlantic Ocean five million years ago. This ‘dam’ would remain in place for 170,000 years. Much like today, the rate of evaporation in the Mediterranean Sea five million years ago greatly exceeded the incoming flow of water. As no more water was introduced via the Straits of Gibraltar, the water evaporated and the Mediterranean Sea dried up completely.

After being separated for 170,000 years, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean were once again connected. Govers believes that the movement of the Earth’s crust played a crucial role. The African Plate subducts under the Eurasian Plate beneath Gibraltar and the weight of the subducting edge of the African Plate may have pulled the entire region downwards. Govers submits CT scans of the inner layers of the Earth’s crust and measurements of gravitational forces as evidence: both the scans and the measurements indicate the presence of a heavy mass up to 400 kilometres beneath the area.

More information: Choking the Mediterranean to dehydration: the Messinian Salinity Crisis, Dr. Rob Govers, Geology (February 2009).

Provided by Utrecht University, Netherlands

Explore further: Did Kathmandu shift? Questions and Answers

Related Stories

Public boarding school—the way to solve educational ills?

39 minutes ago

Buffalo's chronically struggling school system is considering an idea gaining momentum in other cities: public boarding schools that put round-the-clock attention on students and away from such daunting problems as poverty, ...

Recommended for you

Did Kathmandu shift? Questions and Answers

3 hours ago

The tremor which struck Nepal on Saturday, killing more than 3,500 people, may have caused a land area around the capital Kathmandu to budge by several metres, experts say.

More than 2,200 confirmed dead in Nepal earthquake

Apr 26, 2015

A powerful aftershock shook Nepal on Sunday, making buildings sway and sending panicked Kathmandu residents running into the streets a day after a massive earthquake left more than 2,200 people dead.

Nepal quake: Nearly 1,400 dead, Everest shaken (Update)

Apr 25, 2015

Tens of thousands of people were spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, killing nearly 1,400, collapsing modern houses and ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GrayMouser
3 / 5 (2) Feb 16, 2009
AGW!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.