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Rodolfo Acuna-Soto, an assistant professor of microbiology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, was stunned by tree ring data he saw last March at a scientific meeting in Cuernavaca.

Borehole research conducted by the University of Arkansas' Tree Ring Laboratory on 200 Douglas firs from the central Mexican highlands told the chronology of ring growth during a mega-drought that withered the region from the mid-1540s to the 1580s.