Adriatic Sea

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Adriatic Sea

(ādrēă`tĭk), arm of the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and the Balkan Peninsula. It extends c.500 mi (800 km) from the Gulf of Venice, at its head, SE to the Strait of Otranto, which leads to the Ionian Sea. It is from 58 to 140 mi (93–225 km) wide, with a maximum depth of c.4,100 ft (1,250 m). The Po and Adige rivers of Italy are the chief affluents. The Italian coast (west and north) is low; Venice, Ancona, and Bari are the principal ports. Trieste, at the northern end of the sea, was once the chief Adriatic port. Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania border the irregular eastern shore; Rijeka and Split, Croatia, are the main ports. The Croatian coast (see DalmatiaDalmatia
, Croatian Dalmacija, historic region of Croatia, extending along the Adriatic Sea, approximately from Rijeka (Fiume) to the Gulf of Kotor. Split is the provincial capital; other cities include Zadar (the historic capital), Šibenik, and Dubrovnik.
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), which is rugged and has many offshore islands and sheltered bays, is a popular tourist resort. Fishing is an important activity in the Adriatic Sea; lobsters, sardines, and tuna are the chief catch.

Adriatic Sea


a semienclosed sea constituting an arm of the Mediterranean Sea. Located between the Italian and Balkan peninsulas, the Adriatic Sea joins the Ionian Sea at the Strait of Otranto. It penetrates 796 km into the continental landmass. Its width ranges from 93 to 222 km, and it has an area of 132,000 sq km.

High mountains lie on three sides of the sea: the Apennines on the southwest, the Alps on the north, and the Dinaric Alps on the northeast. The northwestern and western coasts are low, with lagoons occurring in some areas. The parts of the sea bordering these coasts are rapidly infilled with detritus brought by rivers, particularly the Po; as a result, such ancient ports as Aquileia and Adria are now located far inland. The Balkan coast is characterized by a Dalmatian-type coastline; that is, it consists of a series of submerged valleys running parallel to the shoreline. This fact accounts for the numerous large and small islands found in the region; the-biggest islands are Korčula, Hvar, and Brač. The principal gulfs of the Adriatic are the Gulf of Venice and the Gulf of Trieste in the north and the Gulf of Manfredonia in the southwest.

In general the seabed slopes smoothly downward from northwest to southeast. Depths range from 20 to 65 m in the north and from 100 to 170 m in the central region. The maximum depth, 1,589 m, occurs in the southeast. The bottom consists of foraminiferal sand and ooze; at the shores, shingle, gravel, and sand are found.

Although the climate has Mediterranean features, it differs markedly from that of the Mediterranean Sea because of the influence of the surrounding land. Local winds—the bora, sirocco, and mistral—are characteristic; they have a strong effect on the air temperature. The mean temperature in February ranges from 5°C in the north to 10°C in the south; in August the range is from 24°C in the north to 26°C in the south. Winters are marked by considerable cloudiness and substantial precipitation (60–70 percent of the annual total). In the summer, clear weather, typically accompanied by breezes, predominates.

The hydrologic regimen is determined by the climate and the water entering the northern part of the sea from the continental landmass. Surface currents move counterclockwise, with water from the Mediterranean passing northwestward along the northeastern coast and Adriatic water proper moving in the opposite direction along the southwestern coast. The temperature of the water at the surface ranges in February from 7°C in the north to 13°C in the south and in August from 24°C in the north to 26°C in the south. The salinity is 30–35 parts per thousand (‰) in the north and reaches 38‰ in the southeast. In the deeper layers the water temperature ranges from 12°C to 12.5°C, and the salinity from 38 to 38.58‰. The Adriatic has mixed tides; the tidal range reaches 1.2 m in the north.

Commercial fishing is well developed; particularly important are sardines and Scombridae. The chief Italian ports are Trieste, Venice, Ancona, Bari, and Brindisi; the principal Yugoslav ports are Rijeka, Šibenik, Split, Dubrovnik, and Kotor; and the primary Albanian ports are Durrës and Vlorë (Vlonë).

The economic and political geography of the Adriatic Sea are discussed in MEDITERRANEAN SEA.


Peljar po Jadranu, parts 1–2. Split, 1952–53.
Marino dell’ Adriatico e dello Ionio. Milan, 1965.
Jadran vodič i atlas. Zagreb, 1965.


Adriatic Sea

an arm of the Mediterranean between Italy and the Balkan Peninsula
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