Two millennia of Mesoamerican monsoon variability driven by Pacific and Atlantic synergistic forcing

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Quaternary Science Reviews



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The drivers of Mesoamerican monsoon variability over the last two millennia remain poorly known because of a lack of precisely-dated and climate-calibrated proxy records. Here, we present a new high resolution (∼2 yrs) and precisely-dated (± 4 yr) wet season hydroclimate reconstruction for the Mesoamerican sector of the North American Monsoon over the past 2250 years based on two aragonite stalagmites from southwestern Mexico which replicate oxygen isotope variations over the 950–1950 CE interval. The reconstruction is quantitatively calibrated to instrumental rainfall variations in the Basin of Mexico. Comparisons to proxy indices of ocean-atmosphere circulation show a synergistic forcing by the North Atlantic and El Niño/Southern Oscillations, whereby monsoon strengthening coincided with a La Niña-like mode and a negative North Atlantic Oscillation, and vice versa for droughts. Our data suggest that weak monsoon intervals are associated with a strong North Atlantic subtropical high pressure system and a weak Intertropical convergence zone in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Population expansions at three major highland Mexico civilization of Teotihuacan, Tula, and Aztec Tenochtitlan were all associated with drought to pluvial transitions, suggesting that urban population growth was favored by increasing freshwater availability in the semi-arid Mexican highlands, and that this hydroclimatic change was controlled by Pacific and Atlantic Ocean forcing. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd



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