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Study bolsters links between climate change, Maya decline

Extreme weather likely disrupted advanced Central American civilization

The Altun Ha Maya site, near Belize City. Bob Berwyn photo.

Researchers used a stalactite from a cave to help establish an accurate climate record. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Archaeologists and paleoclimatologists have teamed to offer more proof that climate extremes likely caused the collapse on the ancient Maya civilization of Central America.

The Maya demise has long fascinated researchers, who wonder how a civilization that seemed to be at its peak simply vanished within the span of a few decades. Numerous studies have pointed to climate as a factor — even in the Earth’s pre-industrial era, natural cycles of rainfall and drought apparently had an impact.

“Here you had an amazing state-level society that had created calendars, magnificent architecture, works of art, and was engaged in trade throughout Central America,” said UC Davis anthropology professor and co-author Bruce Winterhalder. “They were incredible craftspersons, proficient in agriculture, statesmanship and warfare — and within about 80 years, it fell completely apart.” Continue reading

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New climate-change research, same conclusions: Not good

A sea ice map of the North Pole region showing the current extent of the ice compared to historic average, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Global climate tipping points could come without warning; ocean acidification and impacts to marine life clearly tied to human carbon footprint

Compiled from press releases from the University of Alabama and UC Davis

SUMMIT COUNTY — A recent study by scientists at the University of California, Davis, suggests that some large-scale climate change impacts won’t be noticed until the effects are dramatic — and when it’s too late to do anything about them.

That could make it more challenging for researchers who are looking for early warning signs of major changes like shifting ocean current shifts, said award-winning theoretical ecologist Alan Hastings.

“Our new study found, unfortunately, that regime shifts with potentially large consequences can happen without warning — systems can tip precipitously. This means that some effects of global climate change on ecosystems can be seen only once the effects are dramatic. By that point returning the system to a desirable state will be difficult, if not impossible,” Hastings said.


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