The central coast of Belize has been subject to hurricane strikes throughout recorded history with immense human and material cost to the Belizean people. What remains unknown is the long-term frequency of hurricane strikes and the effects such storms may have had on the ancient Maya civilization. Our sedimentary study of major hurricane strikes over the past 5000 years provides preliminary insights. We calculate that over the past 500 years major hurricanes have struck the Belize coast on average once every decade. One giant hurricane with probably particularly catastrophic consequences struck Belize sometime before AD 1500. A temporal clustering of hurricanes suggests two periods of hyperactivity between ∼4500 and 2500 14C yr BP, which supports a regional model of latitudinal migration of hurricane strike zones. Our preliminary hurricane data, including the extreme apparent size of the giant event, suggest that prehistoric hurricanes were capable of having exerted significant environmental stress in Maya antiquity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth-Surface Processes