Environmental lessons from Angkor

Another one up for climate change – analysis of tree ring data from Vietnam give us a better understanding of how climate change in the 14th and 15th centuries contributed to the collapse of Angkor in an open-access article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

cambodia, angkor wat front gate
photo credit: Alex Grechman


Climate as a contributing factor in the demise of Angkor, Cambodia

PNAS, 29 March 2010

Did climate influence Angkor’s collapse?
e! Science News, 29 March 010

Angkor Wat doomed by drought, floods, suggests tree ring study
USA Today, 29 March 2010

Did Climate Influence Angkor’s Collapse? Evidence Suggests Changing Environment Can Bring Down a Civilization
Science Daily, 30 March 2010

Drought and flooding led to collapse of Angkor
LA Times, 31 March 2010

Climate blamed in fall of Angkor

Phnom Penh Post, 31 March 2010

Angkor lesson for cities

The Telegraph (Calcutta), 01 April 2010

The “hydraulic city” of Angkor, the capitol of the Khmer Empire in Cambodia, experienced decades-long drought interspersed with intense monsoons in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that, in combination with other factors, contributed to its eventual demise. The climatic evidence comes from a seven-and-a-half century robust hydroclimate reconstruction from tropical southern Vietnamese tree rings. The Angkor droughts were of a duration and severity that would have impacted the sprawling city’s water supply and agricultural productivity, while high-magnitude monsoon years damaged its water control infrastructure. Hydroclimate variability for this region is strongly and inversely correlated with tropical Pacific sea surface temperature, indicating that a warm Pacific and El Niño events induce drought at interannual and interdecadal time scales, and that low-frequency variations of tropical Pacific climate can exert significant influence over Southeast Asian climate and society.

Download the open-access article here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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