Interannual to Decadal Variability of Tropical Indian Ocean Sea Surface Temperature: Pacific Influence versus Local Internal Variability

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
  • 2 Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
  • 3 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth Systems Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

The Indian Ocean has received increasing attention for its large impacts on regional and global climate. However, sea surface temperature (SST) variability arising from Indian Ocean internal processes has not been well understood particularly on decadal and longer timescales, and the external influence from the Tropical Pacific has not been quantified. This paper analyzes the interannual-to-decadal SST variability in the Tropical Indian Ocean in observations and explores the external influence from the Pacific versus internal processes within the Indian Ocean using a Linear Inverse Model (LIM). Coupling between Indian Ocean and tropical Pacific SST anomalies (SSTAs) is assessed both within the LIM dynamical operator and the unpredictable stochastic noise that forces the system. Results show that the observed Indian Ocean Basin (IOB)-wide SSTA pattern is largely a response to the Pacific ENSO forcing, although it in turn has a damping effect on ENSO especially on annual and decadal timescales. On the other hand, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is an Indian Ocean internal mode that can actively affect ENSO; ENSO also has a returning effect on the IOD, which is rather weak on decadal timescale. The third mode is partly associated with the Subtropical Indian Ocean Dipole (SIOD), and it is primarily generated by Indian Ocean internal processes, although a small component of it is coupled with ENSO. Overall, the amplitude of Indian Ocean internally generated SST variability is comparable to that forced by ENSO, and the Indian Ocean tends to actively influence the tropical Pacific. These results suggest that the Indian-Pacific Ocean interaction is a two-way process.

Corresponding author: Lei Zhang Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80302, USA. Email:lezh8230@colorado.edu

Abstract

The Indian Ocean has received increasing attention for its large impacts on regional and global climate. However, sea surface temperature (SST) variability arising from Indian Ocean internal processes has not been well understood particularly on decadal and longer timescales, and the external influence from the Tropical Pacific has not been quantified. This paper analyzes the interannual-to-decadal SST variability in the Tropical Indian Ocean in observations and explores the external influence from the Pacific versus internal processes within the Indian Ocean using a Linear Inverse Model (LIM). Coupling between Indian Ocean and tropical Pacific SST anomalies (SSTAs) is assessed both within the LIM dynamical operator and the unpredictable stochastic noise that forces the system. Results show that the observed Indian Ocean Basin (IOB)-wide SSTA pattern is largely a response to the Pacific ENSO forcing, although it in turn has a damping effect on ENSO especially on annual and decadal timescales. On the other hand, the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is an Indian Ocean internal mode that can actively affect ENSO; ENSO also has a returning effect on the IOD, which is rather weak on decadal timescale. The third mode is partly associated with the Subtropical Indian Ocean Dipole (SIOD), and it is primarily generated by Indian Ocean internal processes, although a small component of it is coupled with ENSO. Overall, the amplitude of Indian Ocean internally generated SST variability is comparable to that forced by ENSO, and the Indian Ocean tends to actively influence the tropical Pacific. These results suggest that the Indian-Pacific Ocean interaction is a two-way process.

Corresponding author: Lei Zhang Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80302, USA. Email:lezh8230@colorado.edu
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