How did the sea get so salty?

medgategifBeneath the Mediterranean Sea lies a layer of salt more than one kilometre thick. Where did this salt come from? A European research project is trying to find out.

Eight million years ago, the Straits of Gibraltar did not exist. Instead the Mediterranean was connected to the Atlantic by two marine corridors, one through northern Morocco, the other through southern Spain. Over several million years these connections gradually closed. As they did so, the Mediterranean seawater became around ten times saltier than it is today. MEDGATE researchers are studying this extraordinary event in order to try and reconstruct the detail of exactly what happened and how changes in Mediterranean seawater impacted the local, regional and global climate.

The MEDGATE team contains nine PhD students and a post-doctoral researcher. The project is funded by the EU to train these researchers in multi-disciplinary scientific skills that are in high demand by both industry and academia. It brings together experts from universities and companies in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, France and Morocco.

The key research areas of the MEDGATE project are:

  • Geochemistry
  • Micropaleontology
  • Modelling
  • Paleogeography