From 5.96 to 5.33 million years ago, disaster struck the Mediterranean Sea. A tectonic snag turned this...

Image of modern Mediterranean Sea

...into something like this.

Image of Mediterranean Sea drastically dried up, with the Iberian peninsula fused with Africa, the Tyrrhenian Sea is dry, and the Suez canal is land.

In this alternate scenario, the sea separating modern Europe from modern Africa isn't the Mediterranean, but one of our old friends, the Tethys.

Image of the Mediterranean swollen with Turkey and Iran underwater, connecting the Persian Gulf with the Mediterranean.

As you can see, unlike the more shut-door Mediterranean, the Tethys has two openings--the Atlantic on one side and the Indian on another. Assume that the Tethys had its own salinity crisis in its geological history. With connections to both the Atlantic and the Indian, would the extent of evaporation and dehydration be as bad as back home? Better? Or worse?

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    $\begingroup$ How is this broad? $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Oct 5 '16 at 22:59
  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious about this as well. To me, this question actually looks fairly reasonable and well-constrained (answer options are literally "better/worse/same"). Unfortunately it's above my pay grade in geography to be able to answer myself (that ain't sayin' much!). $\endgroup$ – type_outcast Oct 6 '16 at 10:56
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    $\begingroup$ I don't understand how the Tethys sea would dry out with such a large connection to the Indian ocean. Gibralter is (relatively) easy to close because it only a few miles wide, and there are high mountains on either side. In your proposed Tethys, you have submerged the entirety of the Anatolian and Zagros mountain chains. Given that, where is the high land that could potentially close off the Tethys from the Indian ocean? I don't see how this Tethys could have a salinity crisis. $\endgroup$ – kingledion Oct 6 '16 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think your map is plausible. Iraq is low-lying, it should flood before practically any of Iran. The Caspian, likewise, should double in size to the North long before more than a corner of Iran is underwater. And even if the water level rose until most of Iran was flooded, it still won't connect the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean unless you can cover the Zagros Mountains in a few miles of water, which would flood Egypt, Libya, and the Arabian Peninsula at the least. $\endgroup$ – Charles Oct 6 '16 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Charles This is a map of an ALTERNATE Earth. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Oct 6 '16 at 17:18

Unlikely without an Ice Age

Assuming the same evaporation deficit that exists today existed then, you still won't have a serious drop in water levels unless all connections to the seas are sealed off.

An ice age would dramatically reduce sea levels, causing proto-Gilbraltar to block at the west, and perhaps expose the shallowest areas of the eastern connection. Glaciation might also help stop the basin from recharging from the east, for part of the year.

If evaporation caused the same severe heat as was posited for the recent (6 million years ago) crisis, the Tethyian Crisis might be self-mitigating, boosting temperatures and sea levels, thus accelerating its own recovery.


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