Major Mesoamerican droughts of the past millennium


Ancient Montezuma baldcypress (Taxodium mucronatum) trees found in Barranca de Amealco, Queretaro, have been used to develop a 1,238-year tree-ring chronology that is correlated with precipitation, temperature, drought indices, and crop yields in central Mexico. This chronology has been used to reconstruct the spring-early summer soil moisture balance over the heartland of the Mesoamerican cultural province, and is the first exactly dated, annually resolved paleoclimatic record for Mesoamerica spanning the Late Classic, Post Classic, Colonial, and modern eras. The reconstruction indicates that the Terminal Classic drought extended into central Mexico, supporting other sedimentary and speleothem evidence for this early 10th century drought in Mesoamerica. The reconstruction also documents severe and sustained drought during the decline of the Toltec state (1149-1167) and during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec state (1514-1539), providing a new precisely dated climate framework for Mesoamerican cultural change. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.

Publication Title

Geophysical Research Letters