Scientists say a ‘megadrought’ that severely cuts crop production could hit. Howard Paulsen’s sheep graze on what should be green pasture on his farm near Stavely, Alberta, on Aug. 13, 2001. Southern Alberta is going through it’s second year of drought conditions.
(Jeff McIntosh/The Globe and Mail)
The signs of drought were everywhere, from shrivelled rivers and lakes in the American West to brittle brown lawns and parched farm crops in the Canadian Prairies.
Even the hardy, drought-tolerant pinyon pine forests of New Mexico turned grey as they withered and died, starved of water for far too long.
Anyone who weathered the stubborn dry spell that enveloped western North America from 2000 to 2004 knows it was harsh, but now a group of researchers has concluded it was the most severe drought in 800 years – bone-dry conditions that the scientists believe could become the “new norm” in this vital agricultural region.
“Projections indicate that drought events of this length and severity will be commonplace through the end of the 21st century,” the group of 10 scientists from several American universities and the University of British Columbia wrote in a study published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.