The Long Reach of the Monsoon

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Science  30 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5978, pp. 566-567
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5978.566-b

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When the monsoons failed 6 centuries ago in Southeast Asia, they caused two terrible droughts that helped to bring down the Khmer civilization centered at Angkor Wat in today's Cambodia. Now researchers have evidence that later fluctuations in the monsoons can help explain dramatic social and political changes from India to China—and affect lives as far away as Mexico. New tree ring data detailing monsoon failures from 1250 C.E. to the present suggest that the droughts coincided with political upheaval, presumably by causing crop failure, researchers reported at the Society for American Archaeology meeting.