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Climate change on the Yucatan Peninsula during the Little Ice Age

  • David A. Hodell (a1), Mark Brenner (a1), Jason H. Curtis (a1), Roger Medina-González (a2), Enrique Ildefonso-Chan Can (a2), Alma Albornaz-Pat (a2) and Thomas P. Guilderson (a3)...

We studied a 5.1-m sediment core from Aguada X'caamal (20° 36.6′N, 89° 42.9′W), a small sinkhole lake in northwest Yucatan, Mexico. Between 1400 and 1500 A.D., oxygen isotope ratios of ostracod and gastropod carbonate increased by an average of 2.2‰ and the benthic foraminifer Ammonia beccarii parkinsoniana appeared in the sediment profile, indicating a hydrologic change that included increased lake water salinity. Pollen from a core in nearby Cenote San José Chulchacá showed a decrease in mesic forest taxa during the same period. Oxygen isotopes of shell carbonate in sediment cores from Lakes Chichancanab (19° 53.0′N, 88° 46.0′W) and Salpeten (16° 58.6′N, 89° 40.5′W) to the south also increased in the mid-15th century, but less so than in Aguada X'caamal. Climate change in the 15th century is also supported by historical accounts of cold and famine described in Maya and Aztec chronicles. We conclude that climate became drier on the Yucatan Peninsula in the 15th century A.D. near the onset of the Little Ice Age (LIA). Comparison of results from the Yucatan Peninsula with other circum-Caribbean paleoclimate records indicates a coherent climate response for this region at the beginning of the LIA. At that time, sea surface temperatures cooled and aridity in the circum-Caribbean region increased.

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*Corresponding author. Fax: +1 352 392 9294.E-mail (D.A. Hodell).
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Quaternary Research
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