EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Interactions of the Indian Ocean climate with other tropical oceans

Matthieu Lengaigne1 and the Coauthors*
Matthieu Lengaigne and the Coauthors
  • 1IRD/LOCEAN, France (
  • *A full list of authors appears at the end of the abstract

Ocean-atmosphere interactions in the tropics have a profound influence on the climate system. El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is spawned in the tropical Pacific, is the most prominent and well-known year-to-year variation on Earth. Its reach is global, and its impacts on society and the environment are legion. Because ENSO is so strong, it can excite other modes of climate variability in the Indian Ocean by altering the general circulation of the atmosphere. However, ocean-atmosphere interactions internal to the Indian Ocean are capable of generating distinct modes of climate variability as well. Whether the Indian Ocean can feedback onto Atlantic and Pacific climate has been an on-going matter of debate. We are now beginning to realize that the tropics, as a whole, are a tightly inter-connected system, with strong feedbacks from the Indian and Atlantic Oceans onto the Pacific. These two-way interactions affect the character of ENSO and Pacific decadal variability and shed new light on the recent hiatus in global warming.

Here we review advances in our understanding of pantropical interbasins climate interactions with the Indian Ocean and their implications for both climate prediction and future climate projections. ENSO events force changes in the Indian Ocean than can feed back onto the Pacific. Along with reduced summer monsoon rainfall over the Indian subcontinent, a developing El Niño can trigger a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) in fall and an Indian Ocean Basinwide (IOB) warming in winter and spring. Both IOD and IOB can feed back onto ENSO. For example, a positive IOD can favor the onset of El Niño, and an El Niño–forced IOB can accelerate the demise of an El Niño and its transition to La Niña. These tropical interbasin linkages however vary on decadal time scales. Warming during a positive phase of Atlantic Multidecadal Variability over the past two decades has strengthened the Atlantic forcing of the Indo-Pacific, leading to an unprecedented intensification of the Pacific trade winds, cooling of the tropical Pacific, and warming of the Indian Ocean. These interactions forced from the tropical Atlantic were largely responsible for the recent hiatus in global surface warming.

Climate modeling studies to address these issues are unfortunately compromised by pronounced systematic errors in the tropics that severely suppress interactions with the Indian and Pacific Oceans. As a result, there could be considerable uncertainty in future projections of Indo-Pacific climate variability and the background conditions in which it is embedded. Projections based on the current generation of climate models suggest that Indo-Pacific mean-state changes will involve slower warming in the eastern than in the western Indian Ocean. Given the presumed strength of the Atlantic influence on the pantropics, projections of future climate change could be substantially different if systematic model errors in the Atlantic were corrected. There is hence tremendous potential for improving seasonal to decadal climate predictions and for improving projections of future climate change in the tropics though advances in our understanding of the dynamics that govern interbasin linkages.


Wenju Cai, Lixin Wu, Tim Li, Shayne McGregor, Jong-Seong Kug, Jin-Yi Yu, Malte F. Stuecker, Agus Santoso, Xichen Li, Yoo-Geun Ham, Yoshimitsu Chikamoto, Benjamin Ng, Michael J. McPhaden, Yan Du, Dietmar Dommenget, Fan Jia, Jules B. Kajtar, Noel Keenlyside, Xiaopei Lin, Jing-Jia Luo, Marta Martín-Rey, Yohan Ruprich-Robert, Guojian Wang, Shang-Ping Xie, Yun Yang, Sarah M. Kang, Jun-Young Choi, Bolan Gan, Geon-Il Kim, Chang-Eun Kim, Sunyoung Kim, Jeong-Hwan Kim, Ping Chang

How to cite: Lengaigne, M. and the Coauthors: Interactions of the Indian Ocean climate with other tropical oceans, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-2707,, 2020

This abstract will not be presented.