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Paleo Slide Set: Climate and the Classic Maya Civilization
Contour map of the modern annual water deficit on the Yucatan Peninsula.
When examining the natural causes that could have incited or enhanced the collapse, a further breakdown can be implemented: human-induced factors and factors based on the natural climatic variability of the Yucatan Peninsula. Some scientists theorize that the paleoclimate of the region was not only different than the present day climate, but that the natural climatic variability of the past could have included a period of intense drought that occurred at the time of the Classic Maya Collapse.

Before studying the paleoclimate of the region, it is important to understand the region's modern climate. Temperature is uniformly warm on the Yucatan Peninsula with a mean annual temperature of 25 degrees C. Precipitation increases from north to south with minimum values of 500 mm/yr along the NW coast to a maximum of 2500 mm/yr in the southern lowlands. Rainfall is highly seasonal with the rainy season occurring in the summer, May through September, and the dry season during winter, October through April. All of the Yucatan is marked by an annual water deficit that is lowest in the southern Yucatan and highest along the NW coast.

Photo Credits:
David A. Hodell
Map produced by I.N.E.G.I., Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

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Last Modified: 12 October 2001

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