Euro-Mediterranean Information System on know-how in the Water sector
International portal

News Tsunami fears for Mediterranean realistic

The tsunami of 26 December 2004 shocked the world. It killed over 225 000 people in 11 countries and served as a wake up call on the destructive capabilities of nature. The event also shook Europeans, especially those living in coastal areas, leaving them to wonder whether such an event could happen at home. The answer came in a recent study analysing the plate tectonics of the Mediterranean seafloor: it suggested that Europe may be in store for a tsunami a lot sooner than previously thought.

For people living in the Mediterranean, earthquakes are a common occurrence. In fact the Hellenic arc is considered by many seismologists as the most active seismic region of the transition zone between the African and Eurasian plates. Earthquakes are caused when these tectonic plates bump into or slide past each other.

Thanks to ancient historians there is documented evidence of the last tsunami that struck the region, on 21 July 365 AD. One such historian was Ammianus Marcellus, who wrote about what he saw when the tsunami struck the port city of Alexandria. So devastating and far reaching was the tsunami that it drowned thousands of people and destroyed cities from the Nile Delta in Egypt to Croatia up on the Adriatic Coast.

The University of Cambridge’s Professor Beth Shaw was able to reconstruct the earthquake uplift from 365 AD and the propagation of the resulting tsunami from radiocarbon data, field observations and model simulations. The last tsunami to hit the eastern Mediterranean occurred on 8 August 1303 and is thought to have originated off the coast of Rhodes. This indicates that the whole Hellenic subduction zone may represent a tsunami hazard for the eastern Mediterranean. And if the analysis is correct, we can expect to see another earthquake on the scale of the one seen in 365 AD a lot sooner than when we previously thought.

The findings of the study are published in Nature Geoscience.

Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
File link
Source of information EC DG Research
Keyword(s) Tsunami
Geographical coverage Mediterranean
News date 16/04/2008
Working language(s) ENGLISH