Solar Forcing of Drought Frequency in the Maya Lowlands

Science  18 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5520, pp. 1367-1370
DOI: 10.1126/science.1057759

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We analyzed lake-sediment cores from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, to reconstruct the climate history of the region over the past 2600 years. Time series analysis of sediment proxies, which are sensitive to the changing ratio of evaporation to precipitation (oxygen isotopes and gypsum precipitation), reveal a recurrent pattern of drought with a dominant periodicity of 208 years. This cycle is similar to the documented 206-year period in records of cosmogenic nuclide production (carbon-14 and beryllium-10) that is thought to reflect variations in solar activity. We conclude that a significant component of century-scale variability in Yucatan droughts is explained by solar forcing. Furthermore, some of the maxima in the 208-year drought cycle correspond with discontinuities in Maya cultural evolution, suggesting that the Maya were affected by these bicentennial oscillations in precipitation.

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