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

Brendan M. Buckley, Kevin J. Anchukaitis, Daniel Penny, Roland Fletcher, Edward R. Cook, Masaki Sano, Le Canh Nam, Aroonrut Wichienkeeo, Ton That Minh, Truong Mai Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

419 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6748-6752
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 13 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Collapse
  • Dendrochronology
  • El Niño-Southern oscillation
  • Paleoclimate
  • Palmer drought severity index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Climate as a contributing factor in the demise of Angkor, Cambodia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this