Studying an ancient earthquake has enabled Oxford University researchers to quantify the likelihood of a tsunami in the Eastern Mediterranean.
They estimate that a ring of faults around the south of Greece and the Aegean Sea generates tsunami earthquakes approximately once every 800 years and, because the last such earthquake took place in 1303, the probability of a tsunami affecting the region is much higher than had been thought.
The Oxford researchers – working with colleagues from the Universities of Cambridge, Nice and Imperial College London – identified the cause of an earthquake that generated a tsunami that destroyed Alexandria on 21 July AD 365. Reporting in Nature Geoscience, the group describe how they tracked down the origin of this ancient quake to a fault beneath western Crete. Very precise radiocarbon dates of uplifted shorelines show that western Crete was lifted by about ten metres within a few decades of AD 365, and the shape of the uplifted shorelines is diagnostic of distortion of the land surface by an earthquake.
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