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A New Type of the Indian Ocean Dipole since the Mid-1970s

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  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China
  • 2 CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Aspendale, Victoria, Australia
  • 3 State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China
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Abstract

The tropical Indian Ocean dipole/zonal mode (IOD) is phase locked with the austral winter and spring seasons. This study describes three types of the IOD in terms of their peak time and duration. In particular, the authors focus on a new type that develops in May–June and matures in July–August, which is distinctively different from the canonical IOD, which may develop later and peak in September–November or persist from June to November. Such “unseasonable” IOD events are only observed since the mid-1970s, a period after which the tropical Indian Ocean has a closer relationship with the Pacific Ocean. The unseasonable IOD is an intrinsic mode of the Indian Ocean and occurs without an ensuing El Niño. A change in winds along the equator is identified as a major forcing. The wind change is in turn related to a weakening Walker circulation in the Indian Ocean sector in austral winter, which is in part forced by the rapid Indian Ocean warming. Thus, although the occurrence of the unseasonable IOD may be partially influenced by oceanic variability, the authors’ results suggest an influence from the Indian Ocean warming. This suggestion, however, awaits further investigation using fully coupled climate models.

Corresponding author address: Yan Du, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, 164 West Xingang Road, Guangzhou 510301, China. E-mail: duyan@scsio.ac.cn

Abstract

The tropical Indian Ocean dipole/zonal mode (IOD) is phase locked with the austral winter and spring seasons. This study describes three types of the IOD in terms of their peak time and duration. In particular, the authors focus on a new type that develops in May–June and matures in July–August, which is distinctively different from the canonical IOD, which may develop later and peak in September–November or persist from June to November. Such “unseasonable” IOD events are only observed since the mid-1970s, a period after which the tropical Indian Ocean has a closer relationship with the Pacific Ocean. The unseasonable IOD is an intrinsic mode of the Indian Ocean and occurs without an ensuing El Niño. A change in winds along the equator is identified as a major forcing. The wind change is in turn related to a weakening Walker circulation in the Indian Ocean sector in austral winter, which is in part forced by the rapid Indian Ocean warming. Thus, although the occurrence of the unseasonable IOD may be partially influenced by oceanic variability, the authors’ results suggest an influence from the Indian Ocean warming. This suggestion, however, awaits further investigation using fully coupled climate models.

Corresponding author address: Yan Du, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, 164 West Xingang Road, Guangzhou 510301, China. E-mail: duyan@scsio.ac.cn
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