Friday, December 11, 2009

Mediterranean Sea Filled Within Two Years

According to a new study in Nature, the Mediterranean Sea was filled by the Zanclean Flood in no more than two years time. This event made the present-world possible.

Not quite six million years ago the Mediterranean sea began drying up. Water exited through present-day Spain or was evaporated and fell elsewhere. While global sea levels rose overall, the Mediterranean Basin became a series of unconnected, probably lifeless salty lakes. Rivers had to become canyons to reach the dying seas and some of these can still be found underground near Cairo. Elsewhere animals managed to enter in the basin and reach previously geographically isolated spots like Malta. Finally, the deepest parts of the dry basin were estimated to reach temperatures around 150F (66C). The rising sea levels and dying Mediterranean Basin gave this time period the name Messinian Salinity Crisis.

However, all this time the Atlantic Ocean was working on the present-day Straights of Gibraltar. After years of flood water erosion the Ocean made a channel that could handle a flow three times that of the Amazon River according to the study. At that rate it would be a matter of months to two years to restore the Mediterranean to what we know now.

This event, the Zanclean Flood, occurred before proto-humans reached the basin and did not effect the path of advancement but it happened just in time to readjust the climate for favorable human settlement later on. The Mediterranean provided a perfect pool for humans to learn sea travel, trade, and exchange ideas. One can only imagine what it would have been like if the basin was a hell hole and not a gentle cradle for civilization.

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