Italy’s crashing into Croatia

The Adriatic Sea

Italy, home of coffee, art and… tectonic plate collisions. What!?

A new fault has been discovered on the edge of the tectonic plate Italy sits on, making it slowly sliding over the plate that Croatia and other members of the Balkan Peninsula lie on. The result: Italy is gradually getting closer and closer to Croatia, effectively closing up the Adriatic sea.

So what exactly is a tectonic plate? Imagine if the Earth was just one big ocean, full of icebergs. These icebergs (tectonic plates) float around, sometimes colliding, sliding past each other, or moving apart. Italy, together with the rest of Europe, is on the Eurasian ‘iceberg’, and Croatia lies on the smaller South Adria ‘iceberg’. The Eurasian iceberg is creeping over the Adria iceberg, pushing it down.

The Adriatic Sea | Image: National GeographicThis is causing the area where the two meet – the Adriatic Sea – to get smaller and smaller (although only 0.16 inches/0.4 cm a year), ultimately meaning Italy will crash into Croatia – though not for a projected 50-70 million years.

More relevant to us today are the possible short-term consequences. Scientists used to think this area was geologically inactive; now that they have been proven wrong, it raises the issue that earthquakes and tsunamis are much more likely than previously thought.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes… there’s much more to Italy than coffee and art.

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