Blue Hole
An aerial view of the coral reef and deep cave that make up the famous diving spot of the Blue Hole in the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Belize.
"The ancient Mayan civilization collapsed due to a century-long drought. Minerals taken from Belize's famous underwater cave, known as the Blue Hole, as well as lagoons nearby, show that an extreme drought occurred between 800 and 900 A.D., right when the Mayan civilization disintegrated. After the rains returned, the Mayans moved north - but they disappeared again a few centuries later, and that disappearance occurred at the same time as another dry spell. [...] The new results strengthen the case that dry periods were indeed the culprit." [Emphasis - KN]
This is according to a André Droxler, an Earth scientist at Rice University and co-author of this new study. It's inaccurate to say that the Maya "disintegrated;" approximately seven million are alive and living today in Central America. The Maya may have experienced epic drought, but was that the whole picture? Drought. Maya demise. Checkmark. Perhaps not! But let's follow this thinking for a bit...

Rise and decline

The above-linked Live Science article continues:
"Since at least 1995, scientists have been looking more closely at the effects of drought... The main driver of this drought is thought to have been a shift in the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ), a weather system that generally dumps water on tropical regions of the world while drying out the subtropics. During summers, the ITCZ pelts the Yucatan peninsula with rain, but the system travels farther south in the winter... during the Mayan decline, this monsoon system may have missed the Yucatan peninsula altogether."
So far, so good. The ITCZ is the area encircling the earth near the equator where the northeast and southeast trade winds come together. It is a significant wind field convergence affecting tropical weather, formed by the vertical motion or convective activity of thunderstorms driven by solar heating. Known (in these latitudes) as the Hadley Cell, winds have a rising circular motion and poleward flow up to 15 kilometers above the surface influencing tropical rain belts, the intensity and frequency of hurricanes, subtropical deserts and the jet streams.

Polar movement of extended Hadley Cells leads to precipitation and ecosystem changes. This is, in part, due to declines in solar activity which translates to minimal storm intensity and frequency. As storm tracks shift towards the poles, they leave drought conditions in their wake, driving precipitation bands to higher latitudes and into the freezing zones of the upper atmosphere. This precipitation rebounds as extreme snowfall and gigantic blizzards.

According to Droxler, in addition to drought during the period between 800 and 1000 A.D., there were only one or two tropical cyclones every couple decades, less than the usual five or six. (F.Y.I.: We are currently experiencing tropical zone polar movement with latitude changes in precipitation in conjunction with a solar minimum.)

Deep history

The Live Science article continues:
"To look for signs of drought, the team drilled cores from the sediments in the Blue Hole of Lighthouse lagoon, as well as the Rhomboid reef. The lagoons are surrounded by thick walls of coral reef. During wetter periods, excess water runs off from rivers and streams, overtops the retaining walls, and is deposited in a thin layer at the top of the lagoon, settling to the bottom leaving a chronological record of the historical climate."
Droxler's team analyzed the chemical composition of the cores, in particular the ratio of titanium to aluminum (Ti/Al). During a wet year, rainfall eats away at the volcanic rocks which contain titanium. The free titanium then sweeps into streams that reach the ocean and become part of the sedimentary layer. Relatively low ratios of titanium to aluminum correspond to periods with less rainfall, or drought. Higher ratios, it would seem, indicate deluge conditions.

Live Science again:
"...the new results also found that between 1000 and 1100 A.D., during the height of the Little Ice Age, another major drought struck." [Emphasis - KN]
This must be an error on the part of the author: 1000-1100 was the height of the Medieval Warm Period, followed by the onset of the Little Ice Age in the late 1200s.
Why Titanium/Aluminum?
Ratios between different elements can be used to evaluate pedogenic (processes that lead to soil formation) and weathering processes in paleosols (stratum or soil horizon formed as soil in past geo period).

This ratio (Ti/Al) is most commonly used to determine provenance (origin or beginning) of the parent material, but has also been linked to climatic variations (Boyle, 1983). The Ti content varies significantly between different rock types while the concentration of Al remains relatively stable (Sheldon and Tabor, 2009). Mafic rocks (ferromagnesian minerals) generally display a high Ti/Al ratio while sandstones and mudstones have a low Ti/Al value, (Sheldon and Tabor, 2009). Ti is often lost towards the top of soil profiles as a result of physical weathering (Sheldon and Tabor, 2009). In the marine realm, higher Ti/Al values have been linked with oxygen isotopic excursions and have been found to correlate to cold climates (Boyle, 1983). This largely reflects the addition of coarser, wind-blown silt material during glacial periods.
Another article suggested the following reason for extended drought conditions:
"...early Maya inhabitants of the Yucatan Peninsula deforested the local landscape and caused dramatic increases in soil erosion, particularly in the watersheds of northern Guatemala... A protracted period of soil loss as a consequence of slash-and-burn agriculture and urbanization may have also contributed to the marked cultural transformations that occurred in the Terminal Classic Period." -David A. Hodell, University of Cambridge, Dept. of Earth Sciences
However, B.L. Turner, the head author of an Arizona State University study, said, "The [Mayan] collapse is especially intriguing because it seemingly occurred at a time in which [they] developed a sophisticated understanding of their environment, built and sustained intensive production and water systems and withstood at least two long-term episodes of aridity."
Maya farm
Ancient Maya sustainable farming.
In other words, the Maya were savvy, purportedly living in sync with their environment. Massive deforestation does not seem to be logical. Perhaps Hodell's statement is a reflection of a faulty global warming argument based on practices in today's society coupled with a suggestive propaganda message: "The Maya did it to themselves; we are at fault." Turner counters, "[T]hat's the kind of oversimplification we're trying to get away from. The Mayan situation is not applicable today - our society is just so radically different now."

The Maya were located in an area close to the equator where it rains much of the year. Drought is relative. What is considered drought conditions in the tropics may be a precipitation bonanza in a desert. Was this region and the Maya the only civilization experiencing drought conditions during this particular time period? The answer is "no."

The interval between 800 to 1,000 A.D. was the driest of the middle-to-late Holocene epoch. Megadroughts have historically led to the mass migration of humans away from drought-affected lands, resulting in a significant population decline from pre-drought levels. Droughts are suspected of playing a primary role in the collapse of several other pre-industrial civilizations, including the Anasazi of the North American Southwest, the Khmer Empire of Cambodia, the Tiwanaku of Bolivia and later the Yuan Dynasty of China. The African Sahel region, in particular, has suffered multiple megadroughts throughout history, with the most recent lasting from approximately 1400 to 1750 A.D.

In the Americas, the period 1000 to 1300 A.D. experienced the culmination of very different changes to its climate. Begun in the first half of the first millennium, a slow drying developed over the following centuries and reached its apex between 900 and 1300 A.D.

In 550 A.D. there was a massive deluge onto the Peruvian coastal plains resulting in 50 feet deep water and mud, followed by a prolonged 32-year drought lasting from 562 to 594 A.D., causing Andean rivers to dry up. In the Amazon Basin, drought was at its greatest from 700 to 800 A.D. and 1000 to 1100 A.D.

North America experienced at least four megadroughts during the Medieval Warm Period coinciding with the "Mayan drought." Mono Lake in the Sierra Nevada has identified a epic period of severe, persistent drought lasting from 892 to 1112 A.D. (220 years), as well as one connecting the northern Great Plains of N. America, across the southwestern U.S. and into Mexico from 735 to 765 A.D. (Stahl et al. 2002.)

Patagonia shows a cold period from 900 to 1070 A.D. within the first period of epic drought, followed by a warm period between 1080 and 1250 A.D. within the second period of epic drought, which was followed by then another cold period and more drought. This points to the idea that temperature doesn't appear to have been a determining factor in these droughts' occurrences.

FACT: Droughts happened in both cool and warm periods, which dings the going global warming theory! During drought years: In 608 A.D. the Euphrates froze. In 829 A.D. the Nile froze. In 865 A.D. fjords filled with sea ice in Iceland and Norway. (Note: Keep in mind sunspots were minimum.)

Other neighboring peoples affected by the drought were the inhabitants of Central Mexico, Panama, the Yucatan, the pre-Incas in the high Andean Plateau (the Altiplano) of now Peru and Bolivia, the Teotihuacan of highland Mexico, the Moche and eventually the Toltecs from 1100 A.D. onward. Do we still think the Maya created the drought through deforestation? And, why were the drought conditions so wide-spread as to involve so many other civilizations?

What more knowledgeable scientists have learned, by looking at Earth's drought history, is that periods of severe drought (and severe deluge) are a regular part of nature's cycle. Could droughts and floods be flip sides of the same coin? It would appear so, given yin-yang weather cycles involving warm ocean currents and wind patterns such as El Niño and La Niña. However, there must be something else occurring to account for the length and severity of the weather that might, as well, influence the results of core samples.

What about a cosmic connection?

Earth and atmospheres
The research that utilized levels of titanium (Ti) to aluminum (Al) to point a finger at drought may not have taken into account extraterrestrial deposits during periods of cometary and meteoric bombardment. A meteor swarm distributes its heaviest debris over a span of a couple hundred years, not including tapering up and tapering off. The Meteor Data Center lists about 600 suspected meteor showers of which about 100 are well established. There are currently upwards of 70 meteor showers per year that add interplanetary dust particles to our atmosphere in a range from 100 to 300 tons daily, reaching the edge of our atmosphere (the Exobase of the Exosphere) at about 400 mi (650 km) above the surface of the planet. Since these conditions are cosmic and long-lasting, it stands to reason that similar conditions were at play during the heyday of the Mayan civilization, possibly more so.

For clarification: All meteors are from comets. All meteoroids are from asteroids. Chunks that hit the ground are meteorites. Most meteors from comets burn up in the atmosphere, as comets vaporize easily, leaving bits, such as Ti and Al, floating about. Those that manage to reach the surface weather rapidly. This means that any elemental fragments contained within the nucleus of the comet would be released onto or into the ground. Meteoroids can make it to the planet's surface becoming meteorites, or, due to speed of entry and friction, explode in the atmosphere as bolides - again releasing elements such as Ti and Al. It is now thought that many asteroids are, in actuality, defunct comets - so there is a good chance that comets have a much bigger contribution to our argument.

Included in the cosmic visitors are chondrite meteoroids, such as the famous and most studied Allendre meteorite, that contain presolar grains (i.e.: star dust) including Ti and Al deposits. Chondrite meteorites contain chondrules (little pockets of elements), some of the first solids to have formed in the solar nebula, that were either blown outward to cooler parts of space where they condensed, or were bits that were melted by shock waves spreading through the solar system. These bits become additions to the cosmic dust because they outlast all relative disintegrative conditions due to the extremely high heat it would take to melt or evaporate these samples. They are solar primal material.

You might ask: How do we know that fragments of titanium and aluminum are floating in the cosmic dust above our planet? Solar cells from Hubble were found to contain residue from impacting dust particles. They "found traces of nickel and magnesium in the craters. This suggests the damaging particles were asteroids or comet debris. [They] also found residues of aluminium and the smallest craters." The Stardust Mission flew through the coma of Comet Wild 2 and "collected dust particles found to contain magnesium, olivine, calcium, titanium and aluminum."

Even more compelling (and closer to home!) is the fact that Ti and Al are also present in volcanic outputs from deep inside our planet. In addition to regular eruptions, an event such as a meteor strike on one side of the planet can trigger a volcanic eruption on the other. (Note: We have had an uptick in volcanic activity lately.)

Conclusion: It does not require a deluge to deposit these metals into sediment...merely a wind!

What might the bombardment of Ti and Al particles, for eons, on a daily basis, do to the calculations that determined the Maya phased out due to drought? You might also ask what were the cosmic conditions near to and during the time period of approximately 750 to 1100 A.D.? Were there any other indications that led to a) unusual drought and deluge fluctuations, b) unusually larger deposits of aluminum and titanium, c) a more-encompassing reason for the retreat of the Maya and other people during this period?

Expanded and more conclusive research shows significant shifts in Ti/Al ratios occurred during major climate changes. Ratios were higher during interglacial periods, and lower during glacial periods. The various research bits provided by Droxler and Hodell do not account for ongoing fresh sources of titanium and aluminum. Neither study examines factors from a cosmic source, nor its relationship to severe weather, nor Ti/Al accessibility to Earth's surface.

Meteor swarms and such

500 A.D. and 1000 A.D. were approximate dates of major meteor swarm strikes. A strike constitutes a meteorite bombardment or a cometary touchdown.

The 500 A.D. strike was made up of Swarm A
There is strong evidence for comet impacts in 440 and 534 A.D. Documentation is provided by the Celtic tales, the demise of 70 to 80% of the Chinese population and close enough timewise to have impacted the fall of Rome. A giant meteorite (2000 feet across) broken into two massive projectiles that crashed or exploded off Australia, is thought to have triggered the mini-ice age in Britain in 535 A.D., halfway around the world. In addition, a ten-year winter in 536 A.D. brought both famine and plague (a frequent flyer on cosmic intruders!). The impact burn off and subsequent dust cloud created a nuclear winter effect, blocked the sun with dry fog and initiated a massive debris plume that spread around the globe. The cometary impact caused crop failures and mass starvation.

Could any or all of this have influenced drought conditions? Definitely. Due to the nuclear winter aspect, there is now an obvious explanation for "cold drought."

The 1000 A.D. strike was made up of Swarm C
Just prior to this period, we see two returns of Halley's comet in 836-7 A.D. and 867-8 A.D. There was a comet lurking around Venus in 869 A.D. Swarm C made two strikes, one in 986 A.D. and one in 1030 A.D., reversing Europe's warming trend. Strikes occurred in Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland in 982 and 1030 A.D. In addition, there was an oceanic impact in the Southern Hemisphere in 1178 A.D.

What do we think? Did the culmination of these strikes and planetary deposits, loaded atmospheric debris fields that eventually settled on the surface of the planet wherever the wind and weather took them, and the changeable conditions that provoked grand deluges or droughts have anything to do with the earth conditions affecting many civilizations during this time period, and subsequently the Little Ice Age? Perhaps yes!

As history seems to repeat itself and nature runs in cycles, what conditions and implications are we looking for when we assess our own civilization and its interaction with planet Earth? Are droughts and floods precursors? symptoms of the process? or results of the cycle? What role do cosmic bodies play in our near future? Are they signaling an approaching ice age? Do we have any indicators?

Current conditions

Drought 2014
According to NIDIS Global Drought Information System, November 2014:
Drought continues to grip regions OF EACH CONTINENT. Asia saw drought continue or intensify both in the extreme east and west. Thailand's drought has greatly reduced the sugar crop. African drought continues to intensify in the extreme south and on Madagascar. In North America, drought continues in the U.S. Southwest and Southern Plains. South America has drought conditions in eastern Brazil and the mega-city Sao Paulo is tapping its reserve water supply for inhabitants. Eastern Europe has drought intensification. Queensland and New South Wales, Australia, are having the worst dry spell since records were kept. F.Y.I.: One of the driest deserts in the world is in Antarctica.

The U.S. has had 16 drought events since 1980. As of December, 2014, 60.84% of the U.S. was in drought. The highest was in October, 2014, with 63.64%

Deluge 2014
According to the Global Active Archive of Large Flood Events:
In 2014, there were 105 events - some involving more than one country.
Floods, torrentials, monsoonals, and tropical storms killed 1,897 people and displaced 3,111,755 persons worldwide in 64 countries.
The most 2014 flood events occurred in the USA (11), India (8), China (5), Brazil and Italy (4).

According to the American Meteor Society:
In 2005, there were 468 bolide sightings.
In 2014, there were 3,710 bolide sightings. (nearly 8 times the sightings to 2005)
The Leonid meteor storm in 1966 produced 40 meteors per second.
The Andromedid meteor storm in 1885 produced 13,000 meteors per hour.

A solar connection

Sunspots run in approximate 11-year short term cycles, with longer cyclical trends of approximately 200 years (an oscillate between 180 and 220 years). The 200-year oscillation has been noted at least since 200 A.D. (The 200-year sunspot cycle is also a weather cycle!) There is evidence for a 1000- or 2000-year cycle or even longer.

The number of sunspots declined substantially in the last 11-year cycle after flattening out over the previous 20 years. In the current cycle, sunspot activity has, so far, effectively collapsed. The decay period of today's sunspots has shortened, from a typical average of 30 days to as low as 3 days. (We suspect the Electric Universe is plugged in, turned on and doing its thing via the interaction of our companion brown dwarf and our favorite star.) In conjunction, Earth's magnetic field has weakened, which becomes problematic for solar flares and CMEs.
NASA's Science News report states, "Indeed, the sun could be on the threshold of a mini-Maunder event right now. Ongoing Solar Cycle 24 (the current short term 11-year cycle) is the weakest in more than 50 years. Moreover, there is evidence of a long-term weakening trend in the magnetic field strength of sunspots. Matt Penn and William Livingston, of the National Solar Observatory, predict that by the time Solar Cycle 25 arrives, magnetic fields on the sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Independent lines of research involving helioseismology and surface polar fields tend to support their conclusion."
V.N. Ishkov, Pushkov Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radio Wave Propagation RAS, IZMIRAN, Moscow, states that (during Cycle 24), "The sporadic heating of the earth's atmosphere significantly decreased, which leads to the larger pollution of the environment by space debris and other unfavorable consequences."
Yuri Nagovitsyn of the Pulkovo Observatory is quoted saying, "Evidently, solar activity is on the decrease. The 11-year cycle doesn't bring about considerable climate change - only 1-2%. The impact of the 200-year cycle is greater - up to 50%. In this respect, we could be in for a cooling period that lasts 200-250 years."
In other words, the next Little Ice Age. (And we were worried about drought?)

The never-ending story

The rise and fall of major civilizations is tied to global weather patterns, and more importantly, interstellar causes - comet and meteor bombardment - which are likely the main driver of those weather patterns. It is the same for us today. Earth changes and cataclysmic events have significant implications for the length and breadth of all civilizations, be it: droughts or floods, cometary bombardments, severe temperature shifts, resource reductions, solar minimums, earth eruptions, pole shifts, and so forth individually or collectively. We are certainly in similar, if not more complicated times than the Maya. What will the result be for OUR civilization, should we not recognize the signs and implications?

Suggested reading:
The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes, Richard Firestone, Allen West, Simon Warwick-Smith
The Cosmic Winter, Victor Clube and Bill Napier
Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection, Pierre Lescaudron, Laura Knight Jadczyk