The interplay of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, Asian monsoon and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)1,2,3 drives climatic extremes in and around the Indian Ocean. Historical4,5 and proxy6,7,8,9 records reveal changes in the behaviour of the El Niño Southern Oscillation and the Asian monsoon over recent decades10,11,12. However, reliable instrumental records of the IOD cover only the past 50 years1,3, and there is no consensus on long-term variability of the IOD or its possible response to greenhouse gas forcing13. Here we use a suite of coral oxygen-isotope records to reconstruct a basin-wide index of IOD behaviour since AD 1846. Our record reveals an increase in the frequency and strength of IOD events during the twentieth century, which is associated with enhanced seasonal upwelling in the eastern Indian Ocean. Although the El Niño Southern Oscillation has historically influenced the variability of both the IOD and the Asian monsoon3,8,10, we find that the recent intensification of the IOD coincides with the development of direct, positive IOD–monsoon feedbacks. We suggest that projected greenhouse warming may lead to a redistribution of rainfall across the Indian Ocean and a growing interdependence between the IOD and Asian monsoon precipitation variability.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $14.08 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Saji, N. H., Goswami, B. N., Vinayachandran, P. H. & Yamagata, T. A dipole mode in the tropical Indian Ocean. Nature 401, 360–363 (1999).
Webster, P. J., Moore, M. D., Loschnigg, J. P. & Leben, R. R. Coupled ocean–atmosphere dynamics in the Indian Ocean during 1997–98. Nature 401, 356–360 (1999).
Saji, N. H. & Yamagata, T. Structure of SST and surface wind variability during Indian Ocean Dipole Mode events: COADS observations. J. Clim. 2735–2751 (2003).
Parthasarathy, B., Munot, A. A. & Kothawale, D. R. Contributions from Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Research Report RR-065, Aug 1995, Pune 411 008, India (1995).
Kaplan, A. et al. Analysis of global sea surface temperature 1856–1991. J. Geophys. Res. 103, 18567–18589 (1998).
Charles, C. D., Hunter, D. E. & Fairbanks, R. G. Interaction between the ENSO and the Asian monsoon in a coral record of tropical climate. Science 277, 925–928 (1997).
Urban, F. E., Cole, J. E. & Overpeck, J. T. Influence of mean climate change on climate variability from a 155-year tropical Pacific coral record. Nature 407, 989–993 (2000).
Charles, C. D., Cobb, K. M., Moore, M. D. & Fairbanks, R. G. Monsoon–tropical ocean interaction in a network of coral records spanning the 20th century. Mar. Geol. 201, 207–222 (2003).
Pfeiffer, M. & Dullo, W.-C. Monsoon-induced cooling of the western equatorial Indian Ocean as recorded in coral oxygen isotope records from the Seychelles covering the period of 1840–1994 AD. Quat. Sci. Rev. 25, 993–1009 (2006).
Kumar, K. K., Rajagopalan, B. & Cane, M. A. On the weakening relationship between the Indian Monsoon and ENSO. Science 284, 2156–2159 (1999).
Vecchi, G. A. et al. Weakening of tropical Pacific atmospheric circulation due to anthropogenic forcing. Nature 441, 73–76 (2006).
Goswami, B. N., Venugopal, V., Sengupta, D., Madhusoodanan, M. S. & Xavier, P. K. Increasing trend of extreme rain events over India in a warming environment. Science 314, 1442–1445 (2006).
Conway, D., Hanson, C. E., Doherty, R. & Persechino, A. GCM simulations of the Indian Ocean dipole influence on East African rainfall: Present and future. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L03705 (2007).
Ashok, K., Guan, Z. & Yamagata, T. Influence of the Indian Ocean Dipole on the Australian winter rainfall. Geophys. Res. Lett. 30, 1821 (2003).
Abram, N. J., Gagan, M. K., McCulloch, M. T., Chappell, J. & Hantoro, W. S. Coral reef death during the 1997 Indian Ocean Dipole linked to Indonesian wildfires. Science 301, 952–955 (2003).
Meyers, G., McIntosh, P., Pigot, L. & Pook, M. The years of El Niño, La Niña and interactions with the tropical Indian Ocean. J. Clim. 20, 2872–2880 (2007).
Ashok, K., Guan, Z., Saji, N. H. & Yamagata, T. Individual and combined influences of ENSO and the Indian Ocean Dipole on the Indian summer monsoon. J. Clim. 17, 3141–3155 (2004).
Gadgil, S., Vinayachandran, P. H., Francis, P. A. & Gadgil, S. Extremes of the Indian summer monsoon rainfall, ENSO and equatorial Indian Ocean oscillation. Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L12213 (2004).
Swapna, P. & Krishnan, R. Equatorial undercurrents associated with Indian Ocean Dipole events during contrasting summer monsoons. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L14S04 (2008).
Abram, N. J. et al. Seasonal characteristics of the Indian Ocean Dipole during the Holocene epoch. Nature 445, 299–302 (2007).
Reynolds, R. W., Rayner, N. A., Smith, T. M., Stokes, D. C. & Wang, W. An improved in situ and satellite SST analysis for climate. J. Clim. 15, 1609–1625 (2002).
Fischer, A. S., Terray, P., Guilyardi, E., Gualdi, S. & Delecluse, P. Two independent triggers for the Indian Ocean Dipole/Zonal Mode in a coupled GCM. J. Clim. 18, 3428–3449 (2005).
Mudelsee, M., Börngen, M., Tetzlaff, G. & Grünewald, U. No upward trends in the occurrence of extreme floods in central Europe. Nature 425, 166–169 (2003).
Luo, J. J., Behera, S. K., Masumoto, Y., Sakuma, H. & Yamagata, T. Successful prediction of the consecutive IOD in 2006 and 2007. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L14S02 (2008).
Alory, G., Wijffels, S. E. & Meyers, G. Observed temperature trends in the Indian Ocean over 1960–1999 and associated mechanisms. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, L02606 (2007).
Bakun, A. Global climate change and intensification of coastal ocean upwelling. Science 247, 198–201 (1990).
McGregor, H. V., Dima, M., Fischer, H. W. & Mulitza, Rapid 20th-century increase in coastal upwelling off northwest Africa. Science 315, 637–639 (2007).
Meehl, G. A. et al. in Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (eds Solomon, S. et al.) 747–845 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).
Xie, P. & Arkin, P. A. Analyses of global monthly precipitation using gauge observations, satellite estimates, and numerical model predictions. J. Clim. 9, 840–858 (1996).
Woodruff, S. D., Diaz, H. F., Worley, S. J., Reynolds, R. W. & Lubker, S. J. Early ship observational data and ICOADS. Clim. Change 73, 169–194 (2005).
We thank B. Suwargadi, D. Prayudi, I. Suprianto, K. Glenn, T. Watanabe, H. Scott-Gagan, K. Sieh and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) for logistical support and technical assistance with fieldwork, which was carried out under LIPI Research Permit numbers 3551/I/KS/1999 and 2889/II/KS/2001. We also thank H. Scott-Gagan and J. Cali for laboratory assistance. C. Charles and M. Pfeiffer are thanked for providing published coral data. This study was supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award and RSES Jaeger Scholarship to N.J.A., and an Australian Research Council grant (DP0663227) to M.K.G. and W.S.H.
About this article
Cite this article
Abram, N., Gagan, M., Cole, J. et al. Recent intensification of tropical climate variability in the Indian Ocean. Nature Geosci 1, 849–853 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo357
El Niño–Southern Oscillation and internal sea surface temperature variability in the tropical Indian Ocean since 1675
Climate of the Past (2021)
Nature Climate Change (2021)
Global Ecology and Biogeography (2020)
Modes of climate variability: Synthesis and review of proxy-based reconstructions through the Holocene
Earth-Science Reviews (2020)
Analysis of climate variability and droughts in East Africa using high-resolution climate data products
Global and Planetary Change (2020)