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Mile-high waterfall might have once connected eastern, western Mediterranean

Zanclean Flood Animation
Zanclean Flood Animation

A waterfall nearly a mile high might have once connected the western and eastern Mediterranean Sea as it filled up with Atlantic Ocean water after drying out 6 million years ago, a team led by researchers from the University of Malta said.

Scientists believe that the Mediterranean became partially dried up during the Messinian Salinity Crisis, but the Crisis ended 640,000 years later. One theory is that the Mediterranean refilled because of a catastrophic flood of Atlantic water through the Strait of Gibraltar, the university said in a statement.

The flood is known as the Zanclean Flood.

In the latest research, published earlier this year in the journal Scientific Reports, the international team of scientists found evidence of another massive flow of water as the waters flowed from the western Mediterranean to the deeper eastern Mediterranean off of Sicily, the university said.


The flood waters went over the Malta Escarpment — a long limestone cliff — and dropped nearly a mile, eroding a canyon 3 miles wide and 12 miles long that is still preserved underwater off the city of Noto on Sicily, the university said.

The researchers also discovered, downstream of the waterfall, an extensive mass of eroded material that was nearly 3,000 feet thick in some places, the university said.

The discovery buttresses the theory of a massive flood. “Our findings suggest that the Zanclean megaflood was a Mediterranean-wide event,” the study said.