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The European Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea

The Mediterranean Sea and the adjacent Black Sea both are fully enclosed continental seas. Mediterranean Sea is surrounded by 26 different States (e.g. Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Israel, North African States), while 9 countries - like Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia and Turkey - border the coast of the Black Sea.



Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean climate is mild and temperate and it is influenced by the hot and dry air coming from the Sahara in summer and by the damper and colder air from the Atlantic Ocean in winter. Strong local winds, such as the hot, dry sirocco from the south and the cold, dry Mistral and Bora from the north, blow across the sea. Hurricanes or tornadoes occur infrequent.


Extended shallows (Adventure Bank) between Sicily and Cape Bon, Tunisia, divide the Mediterranean Sea into two main basins. Two major circulation patterns flow counter clockwise in the western and the eastern basins. The sea is of higher salinity than the Atlantic and has little variation in tides. The sea is connected with the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar in the West, and with the Black Sea through the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus in the East. The Suez Canal links the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.


The Mediterranean Sea is the region where the African and European crust plates crash together. Desastrous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions thus are frequent.


Large marine species like whales, dolphins, turtles, tuna and sharks live in the Mediterranean Sea. About 400 fish species were reported, and sponges as well as corals evenly occur plentiful.


Significant hazards are posed to the marine environment and to human health by pollution from land-based sources due to the release of insufficiently treated domestic or industrial discharges.


Oil and gas occurrences have been found in several sections of the sea. Special crops of the region are olives, grapes, and oranges. The overuse of the sea's natural and marine resources continues to be a problem.


Some of the most ancient civilizations flourished around the Mediterranean Sea. Carthage, Greece, and Rome were rivals for the dominance of its shores and trade. Under the Roman Empire, the sea was called ‘Mare Nostrum’ (our sea). Later, the Byzantine Empire and the Arabs dominated the Mediterranean. Between the 11th and 14th centuries, Italian city trading States such as Genoa and Venice dominated the region. The cities struggled with the Ottomans for naval supremacy, particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the late 15th century, products of Asia passed to Europe over Mediterranean trade routes until the establishment of a route around the Cape of Good Hope. With the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) the Mediterranean resumed its importance as a link on the route to the East. Since World War II the Mediterranean region has been of strategic importance to both the United States and, until its decay, the Soviet Union.



Main islands and island groups

Sardinia, Sicily, Cyprus, Corsica, Crete, Malta, Balearic Islands


Major tributaries

Ebro, Rhone, Nile, and Po Rivers




Black Sea

High turbidity and vigorous mixing is evident in this SeaWiFS view of the Sea of Azov. The long cloud bank on the western edge of the image throws an equally long shadow on the land and water beneath. (Photo: NASA)

The Black Sea is connected via the Kertchen straits to the Sea of Azov in the North and through the Bosphorus to the Marmara Sea in the South. The Marmara Sea is connected to the Mediterranean through the Dardanelles Straits. The Black Sea level is 53 centimeters higher than the Sea of Marmara. Tides are insignificant in the Black Sea. Although the sea is considered tempestuous and dangerous, its wave height is only moderate.


Three types of dolphins live in the Black Sea, and one may observe the Monk Seal on the Bulgarian coast. Furthermore, fish species like anchovies, mackerel, sardine, tuna, flounder, sturgeon and catfish live in the open sea. Besides few sharks, there are no predatory animals dangerous for man in the Black Sea. The birds' World inhabiting the lakes on the Black Sea coast is partly exceptionally rich and diverse and mainly consists of various gulls and different cormorants.


The warm seawater has positive influence on the Black Sea coast climate. In August, the water surface reaches 27 to 29°C. During fall, the still warm water is the reason for clear and hot sunny days. The formation of an ice cover on the Black Sea surface is a rare phenomenon. It was noted only on the northwestern coast, where the ice cover reached 30 centimeters of thickness over the distance of 20 to 30 kilometers in 1929.



Main islands

Sinop Island, Zmeinyi Island


Major tributaries

Danube, Dniepr, Dniester, Bug, Don, Kuban Rivers



  Mediterranean Sea Black Sea
Areal extent and water depth:    
Total area 2.97 mill km2 0.45 mill km2
Volume 4.30 mill km3 0.53 mill km3
Maximum length ~ 3,900 km ~ 1,150 km
Maximum width ~ 1,600 km ~ 615 km
Maximum water depth ~ 5,000 m ~ 2,245 m
Average depth ~ 1,500 m ~ 1,245 m
Temperature, Salinity:    
Surface water temperature < 25 to 30°C < 27 to 29°C
Air temperature (mean summer) ~ 22 to 24°C ~ 22 to 24°C
Surface water salinity ~ 35 to 40 ‰ ~ 16 to 23 ‰

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