Chronic 2000-04 Drought, Worst in 800 Years, May Be the ‘New Normal’
Chronic 2000-04 drought, worst in 800 years, may be the ‘new normal’
CORVALLIS, Ore. - The chronic drought that hit western North America from 2000 to 2004 left dying forests and depleted river basins in its wake and was the strongest in 800 years, scientists have concluded, but they say those conditions will become the “new normal” for most of the coming century.
Such climatic extremes have increased as a result of global warming, a group of 10 researchers reported today in Nature Geoscience. And as bad as conditions were during the 2000-04 drought, they may eventually be seen as the good old days.
Climate models and precipitation projections indicate this period will actually be closer to the “wet end” of a drier hydroclimate during the last half of the 21st century, scientists said.
Aside from its impact on forests, crops, rivers and water tables, the drought also cut carbon sequestration by an average of 51 percent in a massive region of the western United States, Canada and Mexico, although some areas were hit much harder than others. As vegetation withered, this released more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, with the effect of amplifying global warming.