More Tabloid Climatology – now 'extreme weather' killed the Mayans

From the University of California – Davis  and the “seek and ye shall find” department, a stunning example of Tabloid Climatology™ trying to link “extreme weather” with the Mayan civilization collapse. They did get one thing right though with this quote:

“We are dependent on climatological events that are beyond our control.”

As usual with bad press releases like this, they don’t name the paper, just the claims and the silly headline. (See update below for the paper) It is funny how a naturally occurring drought gets morphed into the “extreme weather” meme of the current news cycle.

Extreme weather preceded collapse of Maya civilization

Decades of extreme weather crippled, and ultimately decimated, first the political culture and later the human population of the ancient Maya, according to a new study by an interdisciplinary team of researchers that includes two University of California, Davis, scientists. 

The collapse of the Maya is one of the world’s most enduring mysteries. Now, for the first time, researchers have combined a precise climatic record of the Maya environment with a precise record of Maya political history to provide a better understanding of the role weather had in the civilization’s downfall.

Their findings are published in the Nov. 9, 2012 issue of the journal Science.

“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.”

To determine what was happening in the sociopolitical realm during each of those years, the study tapped the extensive Maya Hieroglyphic Database Project, run by UC Davis Native American Language Center director and linguist Martha Macri, a specialist in Mayan hieroglyphs who has been tracking the culture’s stone monuments for nearly 30 years.

“Every one of these Maya monuments is political history,” said Macri.

Inscribed on each monument is the date it was erected and dates of significant events, such as a ruler’s birthday or accession to power, as well as dates of some deaths, burials and major battles. The researchers noted that the number of monuments carved decreased in the years leading to the collapse.

But the monuments made no mention of ecological events, such as storms, drought or references to crop successes or failures.

For that information, the research team collected a stalagmite from a cave in Belize, less than 1 mile from the Maya site of Uxbenka and about 18 miles from three other important centers. Using oxygen isotope dating in 0.1 millimeter increments along the length of the stalagmite, the scientists uncovered a physical record of rainfall over the past 2,000 years.

Combined, the stalagmite and hieroglyphs allowed the researchers to link precipitation to politics. Periods of high and increasing rainfall coincided with a rise in population and political centers between 300 and 660 AD. A climate reversal and drying trend between 660 and 1000 AD triggered political competition, increased warfare, overall sociopolitical instability, and finally, political collapse. This was followed by an extended drought between 1020 and 1100 AD that likely corresponded with crop failures, death, famine, migration and, ultimately, the collapse of the Maya population.

“It has long been suspected that weather events can cause a lot of political unrest and subject societies to disease and invasion,” Macri said. “But now it’s clear. There is physical evidence that correlates right along with it. We are dependent on climatological events that are beyond our control.”

Said Winterhalder: “It’s a cautionary tale about how fragile our political structure might be. Are we in danger the same way the Classic Maya were in danger? I don’t know. But I suspect that just before their rapid descent and disappearance, Maya political elites were quite confident about their achievements.”

###

Co-authors leading the study are Douglas Kennett of Pennsylvania State University and Sebastian Breitenbach of Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Switzerland. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the European Research Council and Alphawood Foundation.

UPDATE: Abstract and link to paper here

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6108/788

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Richdo

Extreme weather preceded collapse of Maya civilization
Ok, so we can exclude hunan sacrafice as means to combate “climate change”. Wonder if the CAGW zealots will take note of this? My guess is: “No, get the deniers of science!”

There is nothing new in this research – the drought that brought about the demise of the Maya has been in the climate literature for years.
Besides how could they deduce drought from stalactites (memory help “c” is for ceiling) and stalagmites (“g” is for ground) – weren’t they used to determine temperature in the 2007 IPCC attempt to salvage the hockey stick?

But, according to The Mann there was no warming then!
So, maybe CAGW = Catastrophic Climate Change breaks down from time to time?

That is one idea.
Another idea is that an elite priesthood and aristocratic class developed, who made a living by telling people what they could and could not eat, and passing laws about what “stuff” they could have, contrary to their original myths and legends, in which a loving God sent his Super Twins to give the gifts of fire, cotton, crops, cattle, water, and just laws, to all people.

Andrew30

Anthony;
Perhaps there may be something to this. What if Mayans has an active warmist movement that was scared by natural phenomena and the warmist convinced the leaders to prevent the use of natural resources to support the population.
That could wipe out a civilization.
Think of Sandy and the recent election:
Extreme weather preceded collapse of American civilization
History may repeat itself.

What Did I Tell You!?

Magic Melting Mauled Mayan MesoaMerican Metropolitan Members’ Making Money Mechanisms.
Whereas mountainous jungle civil war involving human hearts being cut out and human flesh being consumed in front of said humans’ closest relatives,
didn’t faze em…
the outbreak of more, or less rain, ruined their whole civilization. Yah..YEAH!
Surrounded by local climate buffered by oceans large and warm, on from two, to three sides, while engaging in farming, animal husbandry, FISHING, MINING, and other environmentally intensive activities,
the temperatures rising or falling a few degrees
made everybody go insane.
It was bad weather made war break out.
Yeah, THAT’s thuh TICKeT!

TomC

So the climate has been slowly changing throughout the course of the Holocene – got it.

Louis

‘Ok, so we can exclude hunan sacrafice as means to combate “climate change”.’
=====
Oh good, the Chinese can breath easier now.

Amr Marzouk

Human sacrifice and flush toilets don’t mix

Larry Ledwick (hotrod)

As above no new info, there is a TV special on the topic I have seen several times.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/cultures/maya_01.shtml
Just regurgitation of Dick Gill’s research it looks like to me.
Larry

Ian L. McQueen

Aide memoire…..
The mites go up and the tites go down.
IanM

beesaman

Those Mayans and their gas guzzling V8s!
Serves them right…

Louis

“Decades of extreme weather crippled, and ultimately decimated, first the political culture and later the human population of the ancient Maya, according to a new study…”
=====
What? There was “extreme weather” before modern times? I thought all extreme weather was “unprecedented” and due to our modern addiction to fossil fuels. Who knew there could be other causes?
Are Warmists now going to point to the end of the Mayan calendar as proof that the world is coming to an end due to climate change if we don’t act now?

R. Shearer

Plus they invented Planned Parenthood.

The Mayan Hockey Stick predicted 6C of increase in world temperature by December 2012…

Juan Slayton

Tim Ball: …stalactites (memory help “c” is for ceiling) and stalagmites (“g” is for ground)
Need more help? It’s like ants in the pants–the mites go up and the tites go down.
: > )

The lesson to be learned here is that when an advanced civilisation falls, for whatever reason, it does so in a very rapid spiral which unleashes in a relatively short period of time. A preview of coming attractions.
The paper also validates the MWP as a global “warming” event, which being free from anthropogenic influences could not have been “avoided” by any Mayan Carbon Reduction Schemes, Renewable energy scams, or other Mayan bureaucratic interventions. No human intervention or sacrifice to their Gaia equivalent could save them, just as our symbolic and Quixotic attempts to follow suit are similarly pointless and counter-productive. As their civilisation crumbled- increasing sacrifices of their human capital to appease the Gods only hastened their demise. There but for the grace of God go us all. The parallels to the current situation are remarkable, and disquieting to say the least.

Jimbo

When did weather become the climate? First we have:

Extreme weather preceded collapse of Maya civilization

Then we have:

This was followed by an extended drought between 1020 and 1100 AD that likely corresponded with crop failures, death, famine, migration and, ultimately, the collapse of the Maya population.
“It has long been suspected that weather events can cause a lot of political unrest and subject societies to disease and invasion,” Macri said…………

The IPCC and the WMO say climate is 30 years or more of data yet these alleged researchers have decided that 80 years of climate is the weather. Which is it? The climate or the weather?

polistra

Every empire weakens and fades sooner or later. It’s the nature of the beast. While a culture is strong, it’s able to get through bad years by storage and engineering. After it starts to weaken, it neglects grain storage, replaces builders with lawyers or priests, and allows its dams and irrigation systems to decay. As we’re doing now.

Jimbo

Is it any wonder how “Extreme weather” existed at a time of such low atmospheric co2. If exactly the same drought happened in exactly the same place today you know what to blame: co2.
Below are a few acknowledgments and examples of low Co2 ‘induced’ abrupt climate changes. 😉 NB they sometimes speculate about the future of man’s increased co2 using models.
http://tinyurl.com/c5swtzh
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/299/5615/2005.short
http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/30081147?uid=3738096&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21101351963891
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/%28SICI%291099-1417%28199611/12%2911:6%3C451::AID-JQS275%3E3.0.CO;2-9/abstract
http://md1.csa.com/partners/viewrecord.php?requester=gs&collection=ENV&recid=13760252&q=&uid=791805140&setcookie=yes

Steve from Rockwood

People look to climate as the cause but it could just as easily be human-caused. Too many people moving into one place, displacing food production further from the center. Eventually the city grows too large to sustain itself (no change in climate or rainfall). There were also pre-Mayan civilizations that collapsed, one near Pachuka that saw pyramids built before Christ was born.

son of mulder

They were extremely concerned about over population so they decided to starve themselves to death to save future generations ;>)

One of the things that the Mayan’s also had was a command economy. There was no such thing as private enterprise – which meant that they didn’t have much flexibility built into their system.

Ben D.

Btw, the ancient Mayans (along with other native Americans) are descendants of the Lamanite and Nephite races of the Book of Mormon, perhaps the conjectured disaster prophecy connected with the ending of the Mayan calendar in December 2012 shows prescient judgement for the rejection of Mitt Romney in the presidential erection, :).

Jimbo

Tim Ball says:
November 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm
There is nothing new in this research – the drought that brought about the demise of the Maya has been in the climate literature for years.

You are correct! Why are these people being funded to tell us what’s already out their? Is it because in their grant proposal they mention “Extreme weather”? I doubt it. 😉
http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=Maya+civilization+drought&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&as_vis=1

Richdo

Rhoda Ramirez says: November 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm
One of the things that the Mayan’s also had was a command economy.

+1
Good point!

Terry

“Now, for the first time, researchers have combined a precise climatic record of the Maya environment with a precise record of Maya political history to provide a better understanding of the role weather had in the civilization’s downfall.”
A “precise record” ……Really..You have to wonder if there is any pre-exisitng bias when you read words like that. Just sayin’

D Caldwell

Not sure exactly what point the authors wanted to convey, but the idea that large and abrupt changes in climate occurred prior to increases in CO2 comes through loud & clear.

“… that likely corresponded with crop failures, death, famine, migration and, ultimately, the collapse of the Maya…”
So… something happened that made their way of life, their means of supporting themselves, non-productive or highly inefficient. and their society broke down.
What does that say about mandating higher (fuel/energy) prices for manufacturing or transporting goods? That’s a whack on the efficiency side of things. Mandating/subsidizing less efficient land usage (alcohol vs food) doesn’t seem to go very far in the common sense department either.
Yep… you can learn a lot from the Maya.

D.I.

How much did this Toilet paper cost? Look at all the so called ‘Scientific Papers’ and ask yourself, was this value for money?
Maybe a site like this should have a two box system of ‘Science Fiction’ and ‘Science Fact’ and let the ‘Expert’ readers decide where to dump them.
P.S.
Just a thought from a layman In a drunken state(ment).

jabre

“For that information, the research team collected a stalagmite from a cave in Belize, less than 1 mile from the Maya site of Uxbenka”
Data from *one* cave? Any chance that some recharge water could have been redirected to the nearby populated area or crops over that time period? Any chance at all? Perhaps, before trumpeting this supposedly new information they could at least use some confirmation data from another site.

Luther Wu

in addition to relieving the lower classes of enough heads to appease The Snake gods, the Mayan elite also taxed the peasants.
Now, the elites have the tax part down, let’s hope they don’t get any ideas about heads.

markx

Altogether a pretty shocking realization:
Climate can change.

David Larsen

Actually, if I remember correctly, Michael Harner wrote an analysis about the Aztecs. The concept was they exceeded their ‘carrying capacity’ (too many people locally and not enough food) so they started sacrificing members of the group and threw their bodies in large kettles and meat for dinner. Flesh, it’s what’s for dinner. Cahokia also exceeded their carrying capacity and they just split.

So they can cut a stalagmite in small sections and say what the weather was like several hundred years ago? They can then deduce from hieroglyphs the fate of a civilisation, by linking in these weather events?
B******s! They would have pre-determined the results and made certain that their archaeological vandalism fitted in with their “research”.
The next unanswered question is; do they want more funding to research the demise of other civilisations by lopping of bits of other ancient rocks in exotic parts of the world. Mauritius andSri Lanka sound like two good places to start, they would need Business Class tickets, 5 star hotel accommodation, food and booze allowance and a hacksaw!

Gary Pearse

So extreme weather has been ramping up since. Well we’ve, at long last, got hurricanes in hand with the new paleotemptressology fresh off the GSA press. Now lets see, paleodryupandblowawayognomy should be inaugurated – maybe at the 2013 meeting.

Mike Bromley the Canucklehead

“It’s a cautionary tale about how fragile our political structure might be.” What an ominous statement, so soon after a divisive election!
“But the monuments made no mention of ecological events” That’s because David Suzuki’s ancestors hadn’t invented the Anthropocene yet. I mean come ON, you guys, pass the ganja….or was it peyote?
D Caldwell says:
November 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm:
Of all the points that climate science makes, over and over, is their ineptitude at disguising natural climate cycles….or, the pretence that for some reason natural climate change stopped in 1950. But be careful, D Caldwell, they will find a source for that blessed gas in some hieroglyph.

Transport by Zeppelin

>>> Tim Ball says:
November 8, 2012 at 2:37 pm
“There is nothing new in this research – the drought that brought about the demise of the Maya has been in the climate literature for years.” <<<
+1

davidmhoffer

Tim Ball, Jimbo, Transport,
Yup, I attended a lecture on the fall of the Mayan’s being due to climate change at LEAST 15 years ago and perhaps more (the decades start to blur together as one ages).
Re their calendar – odd that some people want to believe that the Mayan’s predicted something bad was going to happen in 2012. You’d think that if they were any good at predicting anything they would have predicted their own demise….

Karl W. Braun

As far as I know the Maya are still around.

Brian H

Nothing new? It’s now officially PRECISE, carved in (lime)stone.

dmacleo

D Caldwell says:
November 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm
Not sure exactly what point the authors wanted to convey, but the idea that large and abrupt changes in climate occurred prior to increases in CO2 comes through loud & clear.
*****************
thats what I thought too, but I am probably the least versed person here so did not want to ask.

Skunkpew

I think they have to get away from the idea that the collapse of the Maya is an ‘enduring mystery’ that took less than 80 years. There never was a sudden collapse as they want to envision it, it was a 400 year process of societal change. The northern Yucatan sites were gaining power over those in the southern rainforests because of better location and access to food. Add in a culture of constant warfare, and the oldest southern sites became obsolete and abandoned.
In addition, the populations at the traditional southern sites, like Copan and Tikal, drastically exceeded the carrying capacity, and people naturally spread out to new sites in order to survive. But this started happening as early as 800 AD. This decreased the prestige of those old centers and further undermined the importance of that entire southern area as the core of the Mayan society. The northern sites began to eclipse the southern sites as places of ritual and worship. The northern Maya civilization still existed when the Spanish arrived by 1500 AD, albeit only with about a population of 800,000 compared to the 3 million of Classic Maya civilization in 800 AD. Over 700 years, that is not even that perceptible.
Plus I’ll take over 30 years of pollen and vegetation sampling from distingushed archaeologists on location at these Mayan sites–who state that the climate remained basically stable over this time–to the single report that seeks to connect the fall of Maya society to the fall of our own society.

Gail Combs

Good grief, I hope none of those tabloid types get a hold of ChiefIO’s Bond Event series! link and especially his Of Time and Temperatures

Gail Combs

polistra says:
November 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm
Every empire weakens and fades sooner or later…..
_______________________________
If I recall correctly it takes around 200 years or so.

…Alexander Fraser Tytler, a European historian published The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic. In his publication, Tytler reported that from his research he had determined the following:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loss of fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith,
From spiritual faith to great courage,
From courage to liberty,
From liberty to abundance,
From abundance to selfishness,
From selfishness to complacency,
From complacency to apathy,
From apathy to dependency,
From dependency back again to bondage.”

If Tytler’s conclusion is correct, this year America exceeded the average length for a democratic form of government by 33 years…. [as of 2009]
Source

Goode 'nuff

There are some Maya around, but they live in mainland Mexico and were a separate tribe from the ones on the Yucatan Peninsula. Deforestation likely didn’t help…
http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/06oct_maya/

Gail Combs

jabre says:
November 8, 2012 at 4:25 pm
“For that information, the research team collected a stalagmite from a cave in Belize, less than 1 mile from the Maya site of Uxbenka”
Data from *one* cave? Any chance that some recharge water could have been redirected to the nearby populated area or crops over that time period? ….
________________________________
Good point. All it would take is a minor earthquake tumbling rocks into the watercourse and altering the path.
Description of the area: http://www.southernbelize.com/uxbenka.html
(It is located in southern Belize)
Description of the Seismic Activity in Belize

….For Belize, earthquake hazard increases steadily from the north of the country to the south as can be observed in the Maximum Seismic Intensity in Belize (See Figure 8.4). Earthquakes that affect the country of Belize occur in the Gulf of Honduras which is the plate boundary zone between North America and the Caribbean. Belize, on occasion would experience mild tremors as a result. The US Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) is responsible for the tracking of all these epicenters and according to the NEIC, Belize would experience a 6.0 magnitude on the Richter scale subterranean earthquake in the ocean approximately every 8 years in the fault located between Hunting Caye and Puerto Cortez.
http://www.doe.gov.bz/documents/EIA/US%20Capital%20EIA/Chapter_8%20-%20GEOLOGY%20AND%20SOILS.pdf

DesertYote

Socialism destroyed the Mayan civilization just like socialism is now destroying western civilization.

Kim Moore

Skunkpew– you’ve written a nice accurate historical description that lacks the drama of this latest “solution to the Mayan mystery.” 🙂
In the article much is made of Mayan acccomplishements:
““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.”
For all their impressive art and architecture, the Mayans’ “proficiency in agriculture” involved slash and burn methods accompanied by that high tech tool, the fire-hardened wooden digging stick. They hadn’t quite mastered the art of sustained agriculture. Large sections of the Yucatan Peninsula show evidence of soil that had been overused.

Bad weather and catastrophic sea level rise is definitely what killed the Egyptians chasing after Moses.