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 recently reported 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.
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