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Warming of the Upper Equatorial Indian Ocean and Changes in the Heat Budget (1960–99)

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  • 1 Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales, Toulouse, France, and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  • | 2 Integrated Marine Observing System, University of Tasmania, and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
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Abstract

In the equatorial Indian Ocean, sea surface has warmed by 0.5°–1°C over the 1960–99 period, while waters have cooled at thermocline depth and the net atmospheric heat flux has decreased. Among a set of twentieth-century climate simulations from 12 coupled models, the Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques Coupled Global Climate Model version 3 (CNRM-CM3) reproduces key observed features of these changes. It is used to investigate changes in the heat budget of the upper equatorial Indian Ocean and identify mechanisms responsible for the warming. By comparing twentieth-century and control simulations, significant shifts in the mean balance of the heat budget between the preindustrial and the 1960–99 periods can be identified. The main cause of the surface warming is a decrease in the upwelling-related oceanic cooling. It occurs in the thermocline dome region because of a slowdown of the wind-driven Ekman pumping. The observed decrease in net heat flux is a negative feedback driven by evaporation, which is enhanced by the equatorial warming and associated strengthening of trade winds.

Corresponding author address: Gaël Alory, LEGOS, 14 av. Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France. Email: gael.alory@legos.obs-mip.fr

Abstract

In the equatorial Indian Ocean, sea surface has warmed by 0.5°–1°C over the 1960–99 period, while waters have cooled at thermocline depth and the net atmospheric heat flux has decreased. Among a set of twentieth-century climate simulations from 12 coupled models, the Centre National de Recherches Météorologiques Coupled Global Climate Model version 3 (CNRM-CM3) reproduces key observed features of these changes. It is used to investigate changes in the heat budget of the upper equatorial Indian Ocean and identify mechanisms responsible for the warming. By comparing twentieth-century and control simulations, significant shifts in the mean balance of the heat budget between the preindustrial and the 1960–99 periods can be identified. The main cause of the surface warming is a decrease in the upwelling-related oceanic cooling. It occurs in the thermocline dome region because of a slowdown of the wind-driven Ekman pumping. The observed decrease in net heat flux is a negative feedback driven by evaporation, which is enhanced by the equatorial warming and associated strengthening of trade winds.

Corresponding author address: Gaël Alory, LEGOS, 14 av. Edouard Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France. Email: gael.alory@legos.obs-mip.fr

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