Today’s Top Discovery Headline –“Six Million Years Ago a Mega-Flood Created the Mediterranean Sea” (VIDEO)

 
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Six million years ago the Mediterranean Sea was a very different place than it is today. Plate tectonics had closed the Strait of Gibraltar separating modern-day Spain and Morocco, leaving the Mediterranean cut off from the Atlantic Ocean. The newly enclosed sea succumbed to evaporation, its water level falling by thousands of meters, turning it into a desertlike environment pockmarked with shallow pools as salty as today’s Dead Sea.


One hypothesis suggests a megaflood rapidly refilled the Mediterranean, reports today's Scientific American. Now, a study of buried ocean sediments near Sicily shows this flood may have washed all the way into the sea’s partially filled eastern basin via a waterfall about 1,500 meters high.

 

Floods have punctuated the Earth’s history, but the “Zanclean megaflood”—so named for the geologic age during which it occurred (from 5.3 million to 3.6 million years ago)—is thought to be the largest ever, the new research, published in January in Scientific Reports reveals.

These findings build on a 2009 Nature study, which showed water violently rushed into the desiccated Mediterranean after shifting tectonic plates reopened the Strait of Gibraltar. The deluge carved a 200-kilometer-long channel along the seafloor as it filled the western part of the basin.

 

 

“Over the course of only a couple of years there was huge environmental change over a large portion of the Earth’s surface,” says Daniel Garcia-Castellanos, a geophysicist at the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera in Barcelona, and lead author of the Nature study.

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