The Mediterranean’s Largest Ever Earthquake Wasn’t What We Thought, Scientists Say

Historical past tells us that within the yr 365 CE, the Mediterranean area was rocked by a thunderous earthquake estimated as a magnitude 8.0 or larger. The quake and subsequent tsunami killed tens of hundreds of individuals, destroying Alexandria in Egypt and a number of other different cities.


Nonetheless, new analysis now suggests some earlier assumptions in regards to the quake and its seismic legacy may not be right – and the findings may imply drastic modifications for earthquake and tsunami modeling within the area at this time.

Up till now, the overall consensus has been that the Hellenic subduction zone beneath Crete brought about the large quake, however the newest proof suggests a cluster of ‘regular faults’ offshore of western and southwestern Crete might have been behind the uplift of huge stretches of uncovered ‘fossil seashore’ alongside the Crete shoreline.

Fossil shoreline round Crete, exhibiting the bottom degree rise. (Richard Ott)

“Our findings collectively favor the interpretation that damaging earthquakes and tsunamis within the Jap Mediterranean can originate on regular faults, highlighting the potential hazard from tsunamigenic higher plate regular fault earthquakes,” the researchers write of their paper.

By finding out fossil shorelines uncovered by seismic uplift and making use of radiocarbon courting strategies, researchers have been capable of work backwards to determine with extra precision how the bottom truly shifted to provide the ruptured panorama.

The rise of the bottom across the seashores – to a peak of some 9 meters, or practically 30 ft in some locations – uncovered and killed off big quantities of marine organisms, the shells and skeletons of which reveal very important clues.


Vermetids and corals have been gathered from a complete of eight websites round Crete, giving the researchers 32 new knowledge factors by way of geological ages. Pc modeling was then used to suit these dates and places in with doable seismic exercise, with historic writings about earthquakes within the space additionally considered.

The outcomes recommend a collection of quakes within the first centuries of the millennium possible brought about the uplift, previous to the legendary 365 CE quake, which was beforehand assumed to be the offender.

The brand new speculation is backed up by another proof, together with the obvious abandonment of the traditional harbor at Phalasarna round 66 CE – although the analysis workforce admits that the info is on no account conclusive at this stage.

In different phrases, regular faults within the area could be able to extra destruction than was beforehand thought, and the 365 CE earthquake – which does not appear to have uncovered these sections of fossil seashore in spite of everything – might have originated from regular faults, not the Hellenic subduction zone as many used to suppose.

This is not simply historic curiosity both: it implies that modern-day earthquake predictions and modeling may have to be adjusted.


Whereas the hazard from the Hellenic subduction zone could be lower than beforehand thought, the hazard from a number of regular faults might be larger than we realized – particularly by way of the clustered timing, which has been famous in research earlier than.

The researchers wish to see extra seismic measurements and recordings taken across the Mediterranean area, notably away from shorelines (the place the majority of the info from this research was taken).

“Based mostly on these findings and the higher consistency with the lengthy‐time period file of crustal extension within the area, we favor a traditional faulting origin for the 365 CE and earlier earthquakes,” conclude the researchers of their printed paper.

“Nonetheless, we word that extra analysis, and particularly geophysical imaging, is required to adequately perceive the tectonics and seismic hazard of the Hellenic subduction zone.”

The analysis has been printed in AGU Advances.


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