Sea of Azov

Master Sea of Azov with MAP

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The Sea of Azov is bounded in the east by Russia and in the west by Ukraine. Azov sea is an internal sea with passage to the Atlantic Ocean going through the Black, Marmara, and Mediterranean Seas and it is connected to the Black Sea by the Strait of Kerch, which at its narrowest has a width of about 4 kilometres.

Sea of Azov

The Sea of Azov is the shallowest in the world with an average depth of 7 meters and a maximum depth of 14 meters; in the bays, the average depth is about 1 meter. The bottom of the Sea is relatively flat with the depth gradually increasing from the coast towards the centre.

It may be considered both as a peripheral waterbody of the Black Sea and a vast brackish estuary of the River Don; i.e. the mixing zone of fluvial and the Black Sea waters. The Sea of Azov is a unique brackish waterbody from many points of view despite its small size.

The Low salinity of Sea of Azov is the main reason for the low diversity of flora and fauna in comparison with the Mediterranean, Caspian and Black Seas. Also the shallow water, high summer temperature, large input of organic and minerals with river influx, and some other factors that lead to a very high biological productivity in the Sea.

The entire Sea of Azov area, with few exceptions, represents an extended feeding ground for fish species. The deltas of rivers entering the Sea of Azov, primarily large rivers such as the Don and the Kuban, serve as spawning grounds for several fish species.

Historical names of Sea of Azov

In history, the Sea of Azov had many different names.

Ancient Greeks called it Maeotian Lagoon, while Romans referred to it as Palus Meotis (Maeotian Marsh) after the tribe Maeotae that dwelled on its coasts. In the antique epoch, locals called it Temerinds. In medieval times, the Russian name for the Sea was the Surozh Sea after the name of the Crimean town of Surozh (now Sudak).

Geography of Sea of Azov

The Sea of Azov is the most shallow and one of the smallest seas in the world. Its area is 39000 sq.km; the average depth is 7 m with a maximum value of 14 m. It is connected with the Black Sea by the narrow and shallow-water Kerch Strait. The maximum length of the sea of Azov is 360 km and maximum width of 180 km.

Features of Sea of Azov

The Azov sea features rather simple outlines. The various direction of the area is detailed below.

The northern coast is even and steep and have presence of accumulative sandy spits. In the northeast, the largest of the sea bays – Taganrog Bay – penetrates the land; its top coincides with the delta of the Don River.

Sivash Bay (Syvash Bay)

In the west, the Arabatskaya Strelka Spit separates Sivash Bay from the sea. The Sivash bay is connected with the Azov Asea by the Genichesk Strait. Sivash Bay represents a system of shallow-water bays with a total area of 2560 sq. km. Their depths are 0.5-1.5 meters, with a maximum value of 3 m. Annually, Sivash accepts up to 1.5 km3 of the water from the Sea of Azov. Owing to the strong evaporation, the Sivash water transforms into a saturated salt solution (brine, or Rapa) with a salinity reaching 170 PSU.

Just like the Kara Bogaz Gol of the Caspian Sea, Sivash Bay also provides various chemical resources. It provides millions of tons of salt, magnesium sulfate, sodium sulfate, bromine, and various other ingredients. For a long time long, table salt works existed in Sivash Bay. Mirabilite is also extracted from the Sivash lagoon brines through salt precipitation.

In the southeast of the Azov Sea, the Kuban River delta with vast flooded plains and numerous channels extends over about 100 km. The Kuban River enters the top part of the Temryuk Bay. In this part low seacoasts gradually descend to a flat sandy bottom and the depths smoothly increase with the distance from the coast. The largest depths are found in the central portion of the sea, in Taganrog Bay, they range from 2 to 9 m. In Temryuk Bay, mud volcanoes are also found.

The Sea of Azov is essentially a vast zone of mixing between the riverine and Black Sea waters. Almost the entire riverine runoff to the sea (more than 90%) is provided by the Don and Kuban’ rivers and its major part is confined to the spring-summer season. The major exchange between the waters of the Sea of Azov and those of the Black Sea occurs via the Kerch Strait.

The main sources for the terrigenous matter that forms the bottom sediments of the Sea of Azov is coastal abrasion and the riverine alluvium. The bottom sediments consists of clayey and silty oozes and sands.

Sea of Azov map
Sea of Azov map

Climate of Sea of Azov

The climate of the Sea of Azov, which deeply penetrates land, is continental. It is represented by cold winters and dry and hot summers. (Learn about the Ocean currents of the world)

Winters of Sea of Azov

During the autumn-winter period, the weather in the area is determined by the influence of a spur of the Siberian anticyclone with the domination of easterly and north-easterly winds with a speed of 4-7 m/s. Increase of the impact of this spur cause strong winds (up to 15 m/s) and are accompanied by invasions of cold air masses. The mean monthly temperature in January ranges from – 1 to – 5 °C; during northeasterly storms, it may fall to – 25 to – 27 °C.

Summers of Sea of Azov

In the spring-summer period, warm and fair weather with weak winds prevails in the area. In July, the mean monthly temperature over the entire sea equals 23-25 °C, while its maximum values reach more than 30 °C.

In this season, especially in the spring, Mediterranean cyclones often pass over the sea; they are accompanied by westerly and south-westerly winds with speeds of 4-6 m/s.

Sea of Azov remains a contentious area between Ukraine and Russia nowdays.

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