News FocusPALEOCLIMATE

A Variable Sun and the Maya Collapse

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Science  18 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5520, pp. 1293
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5520.1293

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Summary

On page 1367 of this issue, paleoclimatologists argue that subtle variations in the sun's brightness helped trigger a drastic climate change, and that, in turn, played a role in the downfall of a whole civilization. Drawing on a mucky lake-bottom core from the Yucatán Peninsula, home to ancient Mayas, they confirm that the area's worst drought in many millennia struck just as Maya civilization began its accelerating decline. That drought was only one of many that tended to return every 200 years, in step with and presumably driven by 200-year oscillations in solar activity.