The Mediterranean Sea connects to the Atlantic Ocean via the Strait of Gibraltar, making it almost completely landlocked. On its southern edge, the Mediterranean is bordered by countries in north Africa and the Middle East, including Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Israel, and Syria. It’s also surrounded by Spain, France Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, and a handful of other countries. The geography of this body of water features a combination of coastal areas and islands, and it also features two sizable basins that are connected by the Strait of Sicily. Exploring the unique geologic and hydrologic features of the Mediterranean Sea is helpful to understanding both its history and its future.
Brief Overview of the Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea has a lower concentration of plant nutrients including phosphates, nitrates, and nitrites, mostly due to the surface water flowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. Even without these plant nutrients, however, the Mediterranean Sea has a high content of marine biota, much of it native. Marine life is abundant in the Mediterranean Sea. Fish living in the Mediterranean Sea include flounder, bluefin tuna, sole, red mullet, redfish, sea bass, and grouper. Sharks and rays also populate these waters. Sea salt produced by evaporation is another product derived from the Mediterranean.
- The Mediterranean Sea: With its unusual currents, people initially thought that the Mediterranean Sea was a big river.
- Mediterranean Sea: “Mare Nostrum,” meaning “our sea,” was the Roman name for the Mediterranean.
Physiographic and Geologic Features
Initially, scientists thought that the Mediterranean Sea was a remnant of the Tethys Sea. However, more recent research has led to a different hypothesis based on the seafloor and its relative age. Scientists are now surmising that the formation of the Mediterranean Sea was a result of a land collision involving Africa and Eurasia. A ridge beneath the surface of the water divides the Mediterranean into a western and an eastern part. The western part is then further divided into three smaller basins, named the Alboran Basin, the Algerian Basin, and the Tyrrhenian Basin. The eastern part of the sea divides into two main basins, the Ionian Basin and the Levantine Basin.
- Strait of Gibraltar, Atlantic Ocean/Mediterranean Sea: The Strait of Gibraltar is the primary water access point to the Mediterranean Sea.
- The Mediterranean Sea From Space: Its semi-enclosed formation makes the Mediterranean Sea very sensitive to pollution.
- The Mediterranean Sea: This sea covers almost a million square miles.
Hydrologic Features and Climate
The Mediterranean Sea’s hydrodynamics involve three layers of water mass, including a surface mass, an intermediate layer, and a deep layer that moves to the bottom. Scientists study deep water formation, exchange rates, and how heat and water exchange to learn about global climate change. The Mediterranean Sea receives water continuously from the Atlantic Ocean, the Black Sea, and rivers in the area. Flow rates of this water change seasonally, becoming the most powerful during the summer months. During the summer, the surface water has a higher saline content due to intense evaporation.
- Mediterranean Sea Circulation: The Mediterranean Sea exchanges water with the Atlantic Ocean.
- Southwestern Asia: Along the Coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey, Israel, and Syria: This coastal area along the Mediterranean supports a diverse population of wildlife.
Study and Exploration
Scientific study of the Mediterranean Sea first began in the early 1900s with a Danish expedition to learn about marine life and how it depended on hydrographic flow conditions. More studies were performed in the western basin several decades later, and then attention turned to the eastern basin to try to learn how and why it formed. A number of organizations have also collaborated to explore the Mediterranean Sea to learn about sediment deposits, deep water formation, air-sea interaction, and circulation.
- Historical Changes of the Mediterranean Sea Ecosystem: Modeling the Role and Impact of Primary Productivity and Fishery Changes Over Time: Scientists are studying historic trends of the Mediterranean Sea to learn about its sensitive ecosystem.
- Mediterranean Sea: Threats and Solutions: The Mediterranean Sea is the biggest inland sea in the world.
- Mediterranean Sea May Harbor Oldest Piece of Earth’s Crust: Scientists think that a part of the Mediterranean Sea’s Herodotus Basin may be 340 million years old.
The Seas and Oceans of the World
The five oceans on Earth are all connected, effectively creating one global ocean. The five oceans are the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Southern oceans. There are also dozens of seas all over the world, with some of the largest of these being the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Philippine, South China, Arabian, Bering, Coral, Andaman, Weddell, and Tasman seas. The total amount of water covering Earth is roughly 71 percent of its surface area.
- What Are the Seven Seas? Since ancient times, people have been said to have sailed the Seven Seas, but which bodies of water this label referred to has changed over time.
- World Ocean Map: A world map shows the location of all of the oceans and how they are connected.
- The World’s Oceans: Explore the marine life in the world’s oceans.
- Oceans and Seas and the Water Cycle: The water cycle is continually moving water from the oceans up into the air via evaporation.
- Ocean Geography: Some scientists refer to the oceans as one global ocean because they are all connected.
- How Many Oceans Are There in the World?: Current scientific understanding has arrived at a total of five oceans in the world.
- The Five Oceans of the World: The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean, and the Atlantic is second-largest.
- The Ocean: Because of the massive size of the oceans, they have a significant impact on Earth’s climate.
- Why Are the Oceans Important? Oceans help regulate Earth’s temperature and supply resources.
Written by Katja Kukovic