Satellite Image: Threatened Earth Structures in the Chan Chan Archaeological Zone

Chan Chan, Peru

Chan Chan is one of the most important Pre-Hispanic earthen architecture cities on the American continent.

However, intense rainfall is damaging the base of these structures. The higher levels of humidity in the lower parts of the buildings lead to increased salt contamination and to vegetation growth.

Moreover, in 1997/98, the intense rains caused by the El Niño phenomenon largely contributed to a rise in groundwater levels.

This anomaly in precipitation intensity, which is putting the archaeological zone in danger, is probably caused by climate change.

Despite the support of Earth observation from space, modelling El Niño remains a challenge.

UNESCO and its space partners are assisting the Peruvian conservation authorities in documenting Chan Chan before the effects of climate change damage the site further.


This image was first produced and shown at the UNESCO Outdoor Exhibition ‘Satellites and World Heritage Sites, Partners to Understand Climate Change,’ shown at COP16 in Cancun, Mexico.

Developed in close partnership with Planet Action, the German Aerospace Center, the European Space Agency and the Belgian Federal Office for Science Policy and supported by the Flemish government the exhibition traveled through Mexico, to China and to the UNESCO headquarters in Paris as well as being shown at COP17 in Durban.

RTCC, in partnership with UNESCO, will be showing one satellite image daily this week. All information, both image and text corresponds to the exhibition panels.

More information and the full exhibition can be viewed here.

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