Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant. The sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, although it is often identified as a completely separate body of water.
The name Mediterranean is derived from the Latin mediterraneus, meaning "inland" or "in the middle of the land" (from medius, "middle" and terra, "land"). It covers an approximate area of 2.5 million km² (965,000 sq mi), but its connection to the Atlantic (the Strait of Gibraltar) is only 14 km (8.7 mi) wide. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea or the European Mediterranean Sea to distinguish it frommediterranean seas elsewhere.
The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 m (17,280 ft) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea.
It was an important route for merchants and travelers of ancient times that allowed for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region. The history of the Mediterranean region is crucial to understanding the origins and development of many modern societies. "For the three quarters of the globe, the Mediterranean Sea is similarly the uniting element and the centre of World History.

The term Mediterranean derives from the Latin word mediterraneus, meaning "in the middle of earth" or "between lands" (medius, "middle, between" + terra, "land, earth"): as it is between the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe. The Greek name Mesogeios (Μεσόγειος), is similarly from μέσο, "middle" + γη, "land, earth").


The Mediterranean Sea has historically had several names. For example the Romans commonly called it Mare Nostrum (Latin, "Our Sea"), and occasionally Mare Internum (SallustJug. 17).
In the Bible, it was primarily known as  (HaYam HaGadol), the "Great Sea", (Num. 34:6,7; Josh. 1:4, 9:1, 15:47; Ezek. 47:10,15,20), or simply "The Sea" (1 Kings 5:9; comp. 1 Macc.14:34, 15:11); however, it has also been called the "Hinder Sea", due to its location on the west coast of the Holy Land, and therefore behind a person facing the east, sometimes translated as "Western Sea", (Deut. 11:24; Joel 2:20). Another name was the "Sea of the Philistines" (Exod. 23:31), from the people occupying a large portion of its shores near the Israelites.
In Modern Hebrew, it has been called HaYam HaTikhon (הַיָּם הַתִּיכוֹן), "the middle sea", a literal adaptation of the German equivalent Mittelmeer. In Turkish, it is known as Akdeniz,"the white sea". In modern Arabic, it is known as al-Baḥr al-Abyaḍ al-Mutawassiṭ , "the White Middle Sea", while in Islamic and older Arabic literature, it was referenced as Baḥr al-Rūm , or "the Roman/Byzantine Sea."

Several ancient civilizations were located around its shores; thus it has had a major influence on those cultures. It provided routes for trade, colonization and war, and provided food (by fishing and the gathering of other seafood) for numerous communities throughout the ages.
The sharing of similar climate, geology and access to a common sea led to numerous historical and cultural connections between the ancient and modern societies around the Mediterranean.
Two of the most notable Mediterranean civilizations in classical antiquity were the Greek city states and the Phoenicians. When[citation needed]Augustus founded the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean Sea began to be called Mare Nostrum (literally:"Our Sea") by the Romans.
Darius I of Persia, who conquered Ancient Egypt, built a canal linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Darius's canal was wide enough for twotriremes to pass each other with oars extended, and required four days to traverse.[9]
The western Roman empire collapsed around AD 476. Temporarily the east was again dominant as the Byzantine Empire formed from the eastern half of the Roman empire. Another power soon arose in the east: Islam. At its greatest extent, the Arab Empire controlled 75% of the Mediterranean region.
Europe was reviving, however, as more organized and centralized states began to form in the later Middle Ages after the Renaissance of the 12th century.
Ottoman power continued to grow, and in 1453, the Byzantine Empire was extinguished with the fall of Constantinople. The growing naval prowess of the European powers confronted further rapid Ottoman expansion in the region when the Battle of Lepanto checked the power of the Ottoman navy. The development of oceanic shipping began to affect the entire Mediterranean. Once, all trade from the east had passed through the region, but now the circumnavigation of Africa allowed spices and other goods to be imported through the Atlantic ports of western Europe.
The Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar in the west and to the Sea of Marmaraand the Black Sea, by the Dardanelles and the Bosporus respectively, in the east. The Sea of Marmara is often considered a part of the Mediterranean Sea, whereas the Black Sea is generally not. The 163 km (101 mi) long man-made Suez Canal in the southeast connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.
Large islands in the Mediterranean include CyprusCreteEuboeaRhodesLesbosChiosKefaloniaCorfuNaxos andAndros in the eastern MediterraneanSardiniaCorsicaSicilyCresKrkBračHvarPagKorčula and Malta in the central Mediterranean; and IbizaMajorca and Minorca (the Balearic Islands) in the western Mediterranean.
The typical Mediterranean climate has hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Crops of the region include olivesgrapes,orangestangerines, and cork.
The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Mediterranean Sea as follows:
Stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar in the West to the entrances to the Dardanelles and the Suez Canal in the East, the Mediterranean Sea is bounded by the coasts of Europe, Africa and Asia, and is divided into two deep basins:
  • Western Basin:
    • On the west: A line joining the extremities of Cape Trafalgar (Spain) and Cape Spartel (Africa).
    • On the northeast: The West Coast of Italy. In the Strait of Messina a line joining the North extreme of Cape Paci (15°42'E) with Cape Peloro, the East extreme of the Island of Sicily. The North Coast of Sicily.
    • On the east: A line joining Cape Lilibeo the Western point of Sicily  through the Adventure Bank to Cape Bon (Tunisia).
  • Eastern Basin:
    • On the west: The Northeastern and Eastern limits of the Western Basin.
    • On the northeast: A line joining Kum Kale (26°11'E) and Cape Helles, the Western entrance to the Dardanelles.
    • On the southeast: The entrance to the Suez Canal.
    • On the east: The coasts of Syria and Palestine.
(It should be noted that the coast referred to as belonging to Palestine in this document dating to 1953 has been within the internationally recognised borders of the country known as Israel since 1948. Of the territories administered by the Palestinian Authority, only the Gaza Strip has a sea coast.)
Being nearly landlocked affects conditions in the Mediterranean Sea: for instance, tides are very limited as a result of the narrow connection with the Atlantic Ocean. The Mediterranean is characterized and immediately recognised by its deep blue colour.
Evaporation greatly exceeds precipitation and river runoff in the Mediterranean, a fact that is central to the water circulation within the basin. Evaporation is especially high in its eastern half, causing the water level to decrease and salinity to increase eastward. This pressure gradient pushes relatively cool, low-salinity water from the Atlantic across the basin; it warms and becomes saltier as it travels east, then sinks in the region of the Levant and circulates westward, to spill over the Strait of Gibraltar. Thus, seawater flow is eastward in the Strait's surface waters, and westward below; once in the Atlantic, this chemically distinct Mediterranean Intermediate Water can persist thousands of kilometres away from its source.

Red Sea

The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez (leading to the Suez Canal). The Red Sea is a Global 200 ecoregion. The sea is underlain by the Red Sea Rift which is part of the Great Rift Valley.
The Red Sea has a surface area of roughly 438,000 km² (169,100 mi²). It is about 2250 km (1398 mi) long and, at its widest point, 355 km (220.6 mi) wide. It has a maximum depth of 2211 m (7254 ft) in the central median trench, and an average depth of 490 m (1,608 ft). However, there are also extensive shallow shelves, noted for their marine life and corals. The sea is the habitat of over 1,000 invertebrate species, and 200 soft and hard corals. It is the world's northernmost tropical sea.

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Red Sea as follows:

On the North. The Southern limits of the Gulfs of Suez [A line running from Ràs Muhammed (27°43'N) to the South point ofShadwan Island (34°02'E) and thence Westward on a parallel (27°27'N) to the coast of Africa] and Aqaba [A line running from Ràs al Fasma Southwesterly to Requin Island (27°57′N 34°36′E) through Tiran Island to the Southwest point thereof and thence Westward on a parallel (27°54'N) to the coast of the Sinaï Peninsula].
On the South. A line joining Husn Murad (12°40′N 43°30′E) and Ras Siyyan (12°29′N 43°20′E).


Some ancient geographers called the Red Sea the Arabian Gulf or Gulf of Arabia.
  Red Sea is a direct translation of the Greek Erythra Thalassa  and Latin Mare Rubrum (alternatively Sinus Arabicus, literally "Arabian Gulf"), Arabic Al-Baḥr Al-Aḥmar or Baḥr Al-Qalzam, Somali Badda Cas and Tigrinya Qeyyiḥ bāḥrī  . The name of the sea may signify the seasonal blooms of the red-coloured Trichodesmium erythraeum near the water's surface. A theory favored by some modern scholars  is that the name red is referring to the direction South, just as the Black Sea's name may refer to North. The basis of this theory is that some Asiatic languages used color words to refer to the cardinal directions.Herodotus on one occasion uses Red Sea and Southern Sea interchangeably. 
The association of the Red Sea with the Biblical account of the Israelite Crossing the Red Sea is ancient, and was made explicit in the Septuaginttranslation of the Book of Exodus from Hebrew to Koine Greek in approximately the third century B.C. In that version, the Hebrew Yam Suph   is translated as Erythra Thalassa (Red Sea). (See also the more recent suggestion that the Yam Suph of the Exodus refers to a Sea of Reeds). The Red Sea is one of four seas named in English after common color terms — the others being the Black Sea, the White Sea and the Yellow Sea. The direct rendition of the Greek Erythra thalassa in Latin as Mare Erythraeum refers to the north-western part of the Indian Ocean, and also to a region on Mars.


In the 6th century BC, Darius the Great of Persia sent reconnaissance missions to the Red Sea, improving and extending navigation by locating many hazardous rocks and currents. A canal was built between the Nile and the northern end of the Red Sea at Suez. In the late 4th century BC,Alexander the Great sent Greek naval expeditions down the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. Greek navigators continued to explore and compile data on the Red Sea. Agatharchides collected information about the sea in the 2nd century BC. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea ("Periplus of the Red Sea"), a Greek periplus written by an unknown author around the 1st century AD, contain a detailed description of the Red Sea's ports and sea routes.
 The Periplus also describes how Hippalus first discovered the direct route from the Red Sea to India.The earliest known exploration of the Red Sea was conducted by Ancient Egyptians, as they attempted to establish commercial routes to Punt. One such expedition took place around 2500 BC, and another around 1500 BC ( by Hatshepsut ). Both involved long voyages down the Red Sea.The Biblical Book of Exodus tells the story of the Israelites' miraculous crossing of a body of water, which the Hebrew text calls Yam Suph. Yam Suph is traditionally identified as the Red Sea. The account is part of the Israelites' escape from slavery in EgyptYam Suph can also been translated as Sea of Reeds.

During the Middle Ages, the Red Sea was an important part of the Spice trade route. In 1513, trying to secure that channel to Portugal, Afonso de Albuquerque laid siege to Aden. but was forced to retreat. They cruised the Red Sea inside the Bab al-Mandab, as the first European fleet to have sailed this waters.The Red Sea was favored for Roman trade with India starting with the reign of Augustus, when the Roman Empire gained control over the Mediterranean, Egypt, and the northern Red Sea. The route had been used by previous states but grew in the volume of traffic under the Romans. From Indian ports goods from China were introduced to the Roman world. Contact between Rome and China depended on the Red Sea, but the route was broken by the Aksumite Empire around the 3rd century AD.
In 1798, France ordered General Bonaparte to invade Egypt and take control of the Red Sea. Although he failed in his mission, the engineer Jean-Baptiste Lepère, who took part in it, revitalised the plan for a canal which had been envisaged during the reign of the Pharaohs. Several canals were built in ancient times from the Nile to the Red Sea along or near the line of the present Sweet Water Canal, but none lasted for long. The Suez Canalwas opened in November 1869. At the time, the British, French, and Italians shared the trading posts. The posts were gradually dismantled following the First World War. After the Second World War, the Americans and Soviets exerted their influence whilst the volume of oil tanker traffic intensified. However, the Six Day War culminated in the closure of the Suez Canal from 1967 to 1975. Today, in spite of patrols by the major maritime fleets in the waters of the Red Sea, the Suez Canal has never recovered its supremacy over the Cape route, which is believed to be less vulnerable.


The climate of the Red Sea is the result of two distinct monsoon seasons; a northeasterly monsoon and a southwesterly monsoon. Monsoon winds occur because of the differential heating between the land surface and sea. Very high surface temperatures coupled with high salinities makes this one of the hottest and saltiest bodies of seawater in the world. The average surface water temperature of the Red Sea during the summer is about 26 °C (79 °F) in the north and 30 °C (86 °F) in the south, with only about 2 °C (3.6 °F) variation during the winter months. The overall average water temperature is 22 °C (72 °F). Today surface water temperatures remain relatively constant at 21–25 °C (70–77 °F). Temperature and visibility remain good to around 200 m (656 ft). The sea is known for its strong winds and unpredictable local currents.The Red Sea lies between arid land, desert and semi-desert. The main reasons for the better development of reef systems along the Red Sea is because of its greater depths and an efficient water circulation pattern, The Red Sea water mass exchanges its water with theArabian SeaIndian Ocean via the Gulf of Aden. These physical factors reduce the effect of high salinity caused by evaporation water in the north and relatively hot water in the south.
The rainfall over the Red Sea and its coasts is extremely low, averaging 0.06 m (2.36 in) per year. The rain is mostly in the form of showers of short spells, often associated with thunderstorms and occasionally with dust storms. The scarcity of rainfall and no major source of fresh water to the Red Sea result in the excess evaporation as high as 205 cm (81 in) per year and high salinity with minimal seasonal variation. A recent underwater expedition to the Red Sea offshore from Sudan and Eritrea found surface water temperatures 28 °C in winter and up to 34 °C in the summer, but despite that extreme heat the coral was healthy with much fish life with very little sign of coral bleaching, with only 9% infected by thalassomonas loyana, the 'white plague' agent. Favia favus coral there harbours a virus, BA3, which kills T.loyana. Plans are afoot to use samples of these corals' apparently heat-adapted commensal algae to salvage bleached coral elsewhere.


The Red Sea is one of the most saline bodies of water in the world, owing to high evaporation. Salinity ranges from between ~36  in the southern part because of the effect of the Gulf of Aden water and reaches 41 ‰ in the northern part, owing mainly to the Gulf of Suezwater and the high evaporation. The average salinity is 40 ‰. (Average salinity for the world's seawater is ~35 ‰ on the Practical Salinity Scale, or PPS; that translates to 3.5% actual dissolved salts.)
The salinity of the Red Sea is greater than the world average, approximately 4 percent. This is due to several factors:
  1. High rate of evaporation and very little precipitation.
  2. Lack of significant rivers or streams draining into the sea.
  3. Limited connection with the Indian Ocean, which has lower water salinity.

Tidal range

In general tide ranges between 0.6 m (2.0 ft) in the north, near the mouth of the Gulf of Suez and 0.9 m (3.0 ft) in the south near the Gulf of Aden but it fluctuates between 0.20 m (0.66 ft) and 0.30 m (0.98 ft) away from the nodal point. The central Red Sea (Jeddah area) is therefore almost tideless, and as such the annual water level changes are more significant. Because of the small tidal range the water during high tide inundates the coastal sabkhas as a thin sheet of water up to a few hundred metres rather than inundating the sabkhas through a network of channels. However, south of Jeddah in the Shoiaba area the water from the lagoon may cover the adjoining sabkhas as far as 3 km (2 mi) whereas, north of Jeddah in the Al-kharrar area the sabkhas are covered by a thin sheet of water as far as 2 km (1.2 mi). The prevailing north and northeastern winds influence the movement of water in the coastal inlets to the adjacent sabkhas, especially during storms. Winter mean sea level is 0.5 m (1.6 ft) higher than in summer. Tidal velocities passing through constrictions caused by reefs, sand bars and low islands commonly exceed 1–2 m/s (3–6.5 ft/s). Coral reefs in the Red Sea are near Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Sudan.


In the Red Sea detailed current data is lacking, partially because they are weak and variable both spatially and temporally. Temporal and spatial currents variation is as low as 0.5 m (1.6 ft) and are governed all by wind. During the summer, NW winds drive surface water south for about four months at a velocity of 15–20 cm/s (6–8 in/s), whereas in winter the flow is reversed resulting in the inflow of water from the Gulf of Aden into the Red Sea. The net value of the latter predominates, resulting in an overall drift to the northern end of the Red Sea. Generally, the velocity of the tidal current is between 50–60 cm/s (20–23.6 in/s) with a maximum of 1 m/s (3.3 ft) at the mouth of the al-Kharrar Lagoon. However, the range of the north-northeast current along the Saudi coast is 8–29 cm/s (3–11.4 in/s).

Wind regime

With the exception of the northern part of the Red Sea, which is dominated by persistent north-west winds, with speeds ranging between 7 km/h (4.3 mph) and 12 km/h (7.5 mph), the rest of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are subjected to the influence of regular and seasonally reversible winds. The wind regime is characterized by both seasonal and regional variations in speed anddirection with average speed generally increasing northward.
Wind is the driving force in the Red Sea for transporting the material either as suspension or as bedload. Wind induced currents play an important role in the Red Sea in initiating the process of resuspension of bottom sediments and transfer of materials from sites of dumping to sites of burial in quiescent environment of deposition. Wind generated current measurement is therefore important in order to determine the sediment dispersal pattern and its role in the erosion and accretion of the coastal rock exposure and the submerged coral beds.


Sometimes during the Tertiary period the Bab el Mandeb closed and the Red Sea evaporated to an empty, hot, dry salt-floored sink. Effects causing this would have been:The Red Sea was formed by Arabia being split from Africa by movement of the Red Sea Rift. This split started in the Eocene and accelerated during theOligocene. The sea is still widening, and it is considered that it will become an ocean in time (as proposed in the model of John Tuzo Wilson). In 1949, a deep water survey reported anomalously hot brines in the central portion of the Red Sea. Later work in the 1960s confirmed the presence of hot, 60 °C (140 °F), saline brines and associated metalliferous muds. The hot solutions were emanating from an active subseafloor rift. The high salinity of the waters was not hospitable to living organisms.
  • A "race" between the Red Sea widening and Perim Island erupting filling the Bab el Mandeb with lava.
  • The lowering of world sea level during the Ice Ages because of much water being locked up in the ice caps.
A number of volcanic islands rise from the center of the sea. Most are dormant, but in 2007 Jabal al-Tair island, in the Bab el Mandeb strait, erupted violently. An eruption among the nearby Zubair islands followed in 2011.

Mineral resources

 Biogenic constituents:In terms of mineral resources the major constituents of the Red Sea sediments are as follows:
Nanofossils, foraminiferapteropods, siliceous fossils
  • Volcanogenic constituents:
Tuffitesvolcanic ashmontmorillonitecristobalitezeolites
  • Terrigenous constituents:
Quartzfeldspars, rock fragments, mica, heavy minerals, clay minerals
  • Authigenic minerals:
Sulfide mineralsaragonite, Mg-calcite, protodolomite, dolomite, quartz, chalcedony.
  • Evaporite minerals:
  • Brine precipitate:
Fe-montmorillonite, goethitehematitesideriterhodochrositepyritesphalerite, anhydrite.

Living resources

The special biodiversity of the area is recognized by the Egyptian government, who set up the Ras Mohammed National Park in 1983. The rules and regulations governing this area protect local marine life, which has become a major draw for diving enthusiasts.The Red Sea also contains many offshore reefs including several true atolls. Many of the unusual offshore reef formations defy classic (i.e., Darwinian) coral reef classification schemes, and are generally attributed to the high levels of tectonic activity that characterize the area.
Divers and snorkellers should be aware that although most Red Sea species are innocuous, a few are hazardous to humans: see Red Sea species hazardous to humans.
Other marine habitats include sea grass beds, salt pansmangroves and salt marshes.

Desalination plants

There is extensive demand of desalinated water to meet the requirement of the population and the industries along the Red Sea.
There are at least 18 desalination plants along the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia which discharge warm brine and treatment chemicals (chlorine andanti-scalants) that may cause bleaching and mortality of corals and diseases to the fish stocks. Although this is only a localized phenomenon, it may intensify with time and have a profound impact on the fishing industry.
The water from the Red Sea is also utilized by oil refineries and cement factories for cooling purposes. Used water drained back into the coastal zones may cause harm to the nearshore environment of the Red Sea.


The Red Sea is part of the sea roads between Europe, the Persian Gulf and East Asia, and as such has heavy shipping trafficPiracy in Somaliaoccurs principally near the area of the Gulf of Aden south of the sea. Government-related bodies with responsibility to police the Red Sea area include the Port Said Port AuthoritySuez Canal Authority and Red Sea Ports Authority of Egypt, Jordan Maritime AuthorityIsrael Port AuthoritySaudi Ports Authority and Sea Ports Corporation of Sudan.