Ozone, global warming, climate change, whatever… it’s hard to keep up these days. But researchers at UC Berkeley believe they’ve discovered the reason this ancient Mexican City fell out of prominence.

Sahil Chanoy at The Daily Californian writes:

UC Berkeley researchers link climate change to decline of Mexican city

In a study published this month, UC Berkeley researchers examined the mysterious abandonment of an ancient Mexican city, analyzing the effect dry weather might have had on the city’s rise and fall.

By using lake sediment to establish a timeline for the region’s climatic events and comparing it to an archaeological timeline for the same area, researchers showed how drought may have contributed to the city of Cantona’s population flux about 1,000 years ago. They found that environmental stresses often interacted with the region’s political forces in nuanced ways.

The study, which involved researchers from universities in Mexico and Germany, was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper’s lead author was Tripti Bhattacharya, a UC Berkeley graduate student in the department of geography.

In 2007, a team recovered 12-meter-long cores of sediment from Aljojuca, a lake near Cantona. At its peak, the city was estimated to be home to 90,000 people and was an important center of production for obsidian in a region controlled by powerful city-states. Cantona was abandoned around A.D. 1000, however.

The sediment samples provided a record of 6,200 years of climate history and enabled researchers at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to extract information about how climate patterns varied on a multidecadal scale.