Bodies of Water: The Mediterranean Sea and Beyond!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Written by Katja Kukovic

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