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Siler, N, Kosaka Y, Xie SP, Li XC.  2017.  Tropical ocean contributions to California's surprisingly dry El Nino of 2015/16. Journal of Climate. 30:10067-10079.   10.1175/jcli-d-17-0177.1   AbstractWebsite

The major El Nino of 2015/16 brought significantly less precipitation to California than previous events of comparable strength, much to the disappointment of residents suffering through the state's fourth consecutive year of severe drought. Here, California's weak precipitation in 2015/16 relative to previous major El Nino events is investigated within a 40-member ensemble of atmosphere-only simulations run with historical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and constant radiative forcing. The simulations reveal significant differences in both California precipitation and the large-scale atmospheric circulation between 2015/16 and previous strong El Nino events, which are similar to (albeit weaker than) the differences found in observations. Principal component analysis indicates that these ensemble-mean differences were likely related to a pattern of tropical SST variability with a strong signal in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific and a weaker signal in the eastern equatorial Pacific and subtropical North Atlantic. This SST pattern was missed by the majority of forecast models, which could partly explain their erroneous predictions of above-average precipitation in California in 2015/16.

Tomita, H, Xie SP, Tokinaga H, Kawai Y.  2013.  Cloud response to the meandering Kuroshio extension front. Journal of Climate. 26:9393-9398.   10.1175/jcli-d-13-00133.1   AbstractWebsite

A unique set of observations on board research vessel (R/V) Mirai in April 2010 captured a striking cloud hole over a cold meander of the Kuroshio Extension (KE) east of Japan as corroborated by atmospheric soundings, ceilometer, shipboard radiation data, and satellite cloud images. Distinct differences were also observed between the warm meander farther to the north and warm water south of the KE. The atmosphere is highly unstable over the warm meander, promoting a well-mixed marine atmospheric boundary layer (MABL) and a layer of solid stratocumulus clouds capped by a strong inversion. Over the warm water south of the KE, MABL deepens and is decoupled from the ocean surface. Scattered cumulus clouds develop as captured by rapid variations in ceilometer-derived cloud base. The results show that the meandering KE front affects the entire MABL and the clouds. Such atmospheric response can potentially intensify the baroclinicity in the lower atmosphere.