Report

Collapse of Classic Maya Civilization Related to Modest Reduction in Precipitation

Science  24 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6071, pp. 956-959
DOI: 10.1126/science.1216629

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Abstract

The disintegration of the Classic Maya civilization in the Yucatán Peninsula and Central America was a complex process that occurred over an approximately 200-year interval and involved a catastrophic depopulation of the region. Although it is well established that the civilization collapse coincided with widespread episodes of drought, their nature and severity remain enigmatic. We present a quantitative analysis that offers a coherent interpretation of four of the most detailed paleoclimate records of the event. We conclude that the droughts occurring during the disintegration of the Maya civilization represented up to a 40% reduction in annual precipitation, probably due to a reduction in summer season tropical storm frequency and intensity.

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