At least three more dry months now expected in California

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Gov. Brown this morning declared that California is officially in drought status, a move that triggers certain policies — and unofficially sets off high-stakes political battles to determine winners and losers in the divvying up of this year's water. The scientists with the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center threw more cold water [sorry] on the whole subject on Thursday when they announced that the weather models show California's historically dry weather is expected to last for at least another three months. From the San Jose Mercury story:

"There will be a few precipitation events, but we're looking at drier-than-normal conditions in February, March and April," said Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist with the agency, which is based in College Park, Md. "Right now we are saying the odds do not indicate a Miracle March, which is not a good thing."

To be sure, long-range forecasts are not as accurate as short-term weather forecasts. The 90-day precipitation outlook for the West has turned out to be right about 60 percent of the time over the last 20 years....

Meanwhile, the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly update of drought conditions by federal agencies and researchers at the University of Nebraska, classified large sections of Northern California, including the Bay Area, as the fourth most severe of five drought categories: "extreme drought."

"It means that things are not getting better. They are getting drier," said David Simeral, a meteorologist with the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno, who is part of the Drought Monitor team.

"We're starting to see a lot more impacts showing up around the state," he said. "Groundwater issues, low snowpack, less forage available for cattle grazing, more fire risk."

Also Thursday, the Obama administration declared 27 California counties as "natural disaster areas," eligible for emergency federal loans for farmers. "Our hearts go out to those California farmers and ranchers affected," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

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