Experts warn against tsunami scaremongering after Mediterranean Sea waters recede

Experts warn against tsunami scaremongering after Mediterranean Sea waters recede
Scientists and officials in Egypt, Greece and Lebanon have said a recent drop in Mediterranean water levels are not a sign of an impending earthquake or tsunami as touted by some social media users.
3 min read
23 February, 2023
Greek scientists told The New Arab that Eastern Mediterranean sea levels would soon be returning to normal [Bilal Jawich/Anadolu Agency/Getty]

Scientists and officials have dismissed claims that a recent drop in seawater levels in the Eastern Mediterranean is a sign of an impending tsunami or earthquake, warning against scaremongering on social media.

Videos posted to social media in recent days show the waters off the coastlines of Egypt and Lebanon receding beyond usual low-tide levels, often accompanied by alarmist claims of impending doom. Other videos showed rocks on the shoreline with cracks in them.

Some suggested that these incidents were signs of a coming earthquake or tsunami.

The videos sparked alarm among viewers, who are already on edge, following a series of earthquakes and aftershocks in the region earlier this month.

An earthquake in Turkey and Syria on 6 February killed at least 47,000 people and flattened buildings in large swathes of the two countries. A new quake struck the same area last Tuesday, once again taking lives.

Experts have told The New Arab that the low tide levels witnessed this week in the Eastern Mediterranean region are not a sign of a coming natural disaster.

"During the last 14 days (starting on the 7th of February), a continuous pattern of high atmospheric pressure values has been observed over the Eastern Mediterranean, resulting in a sea level drop in various areas of the basin," Leonidas Perivoliotis and Dimitris Sakellariou, marine scientists at the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research's Institute of Oceanography, said on Thursday.

"This is not a sign of an impending earthquake or tsunami and it should not be associated with any kind of geological or seismological phenomena. According to recent forecasts, this high-pressure system will not affect the area any longer, thus normal values for the sea level are expected."

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In Lebanon, local media quoted a statement from the National Council for Scientific Research, part of the American University of Beirut (AUB), saying there was no truth to the claims that lower water levels meant a tsunami was looming.

In Egypt, speculation over the event was enough to prompt a government response.

The Council of Ministers said Tuesday that the retreat of waters is a "natural, periodically occurring phenomenon" and does not indicate a coming tsunami.

The official body urged social media users to "be careful before publishing such rumours", and asked citizens to report posts that claim the drop in water levels indicated a natural disaster would soon strike.

Misinformation on natural disasters has run rife on social media since the 6 February earthquake.

Dutch self-styled 'seismologist' Frank Hoogerbeets, who was widely lauded online for allegedly 'predicting' this month's quakes, has been criticised by scientists, who insist it is impossible to predict earthquakes.

Turkish communications director Fahrettin Altun said Turkey was experiencing "serious information pollution" and authorities would share a daily bulletin correcting false information.