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Indian Ocean Dipole: Processes and impacts

Vinayachandran, PN and Francis, PA and Rao, SA (2009) Indian Ocean Dipole: Processes and impacts. In: Current Trends in Science . pp. 569-589.

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Equatorial Indian Ocean is warmer in the east, has a deeper thermocline and mixed layer, and supports a more convective atmosphere than in the west. During certain years, the eastern Indian Ocean becomes unusually cold, anomalous winds blow from east to west along the equator and southeastward off the coast of Sumatra, thermocline and mixed layer lift up and the atmospheric convection gets suppressed. At the same time, western Indian Ocean becomes warmer and enhances atmospheric convection. This coupled ocean-atmospheric phenomenon in which convection, winds, sea surface temperature (SST) and thermocline take part actively is known as the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). Propagation of baroclinic Kelvin and Rossby waves excited by anomalous winds, play an important role in the development of SST anomalies associated with the IOD. Since mean thermocline in the Indian Ocean is deep compared to the Pacific, it was believed for a long time that the Indian Ocean is passive and merely responds to the atmospheric forcing. Discovery of the IOD and studies that followed demonstrate that the Indian Ocean can sustain its own intrinsic coupled ocean-atmosphere processes. About 50% percent of the IOD events in the past 100 years have co-occurred with El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the other half independently. Coupled models have been able to reproduce IOD events and process experiments by such models – switching ENSO on and off – support the hypothesis based on observations that IOD events develop either in the presence or absence of ENSO. There is a general consensus among different coupled models as well as analysis of data that IOD events co-occurring during the ENSO are forced by a zonal shift in the descending branch of Walker cell over to the eastern Indian Ocean. Processes that initiate the IOD in the absence of ENSO are not clear, although several studies suggest that anomalies of Hadley circulation are the most probable forcing function. Impact of the IOD is felt in the vicinity of Indian Ocean as well as in remote regions. During IOD events, biological productivity of the eastern Indian Ocean increases and this in turn leads to death of corals over a large area.Moreover, the IOD affects rainfall over the maritime continent, Indian subcontinent, Australia and eastern Africa. The maritime continent and Australia suffer from deficit rainfall whereas India and east Africa receive excess. Despite the successful hindcast of the 2006 IOD by a coupled model, forecasting IOD events and their implications to rainfall variability remains a major challenge as understanding reasons behind an increase in frequency of IOD events in recent decades.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Current Trends in Science
Publisher: Indian Academy of Sciences
Keywords: Indian Ocean Dipole;oceano graphy;interannual variability.
Department/Centre: Division of Mechanical Sciences > Centre for Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2011 12:13
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2011 12:15
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/35256

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