The Black Sea is an inland sea bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterraneanand Aegean Seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean Sea region of the Mediterranean. These waters separate eastern Europe and western Asia. The Black Sea also connects to the Sea of Azov by the Strait of Kerch. The Black Sea has an area of 436,400 km2 (168,500 sq mi) (not including the Sea of Azov), a maximum depth of 2,212 m (7,257 ft), and a volume of 547,000 km3 (131,200 cu mi). The Black Sea forms in an east-west trending elliptical depression which lies between Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania,Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. It is constrained by the Pontic Mountains to the south, the Caucasus Mountains to the east and features a wide shelf to the northwest. The longest east-west extent is about 1,175 km.
The Black Sea has a positive water balance; that is, a net outflow of water 300 km3 per year through the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles into the Aegean Sea. Mediterranean water flows into the Black Sea as part of a two-way hydrological exchange. The Black Sea outflow is cooler and less saline, and therefore floats over the warm, more saline Mediterranean inflow, leading to a significant anoxic layer well below the surface waters. The Black Sea also receives river water from large Eurasian fluvial systems to the north of the Sea, of which the Don, Dnieper and Danube are the most significant.
In the past, the water level has varied significantly. Due to these variations in the water level in the basin the surrounding shelf and associated aprons have sometimes been land. At certain critical water levels it is possible for connections with surrounding water bodies to become established. It is through the most active of these connective routes, the Turkish Straits, that the Black Sea joins the world ocean. When this hydrological link is not present, the Black Sea is a lake, operating independently of the global ocean system. Currently the Black Sea water level is relatively high, thus water is being exchanged with the Mediterranean. The Turkish Straits connect the Black and Aegean Seas and comprise the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles.
In the years following the end of the Cold War, the popularity of the Black Sea as a tourist destination has been steadily increasing. Overall, tourism at Black Sea resorts has become one of the region's growth industries.
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