Shinoda, T., and W. Han, 2005: Influence of the Indian Ocean dipole on atmospheric subseasonal variability. J. Climate, 18, 3891-3909.


The relationship between atmospheric subseasonal variability and interannual variation of SST over the tropical Indian Ocean is examined using winds and humidity from the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis, outgoing longwave radiation (OLR), and the monthly SST analysis. The primary focus is on whether and how the subseasonal variability is related to the zonal dipole structure of SST, which peaks during boreal fall. The level of subseasonal wind activity is measured by standard deviation of bandpass-filtered zonal wind fields on the 6-30 and 30-90 day time scales.

During boreal fall (September-November), the interannual variation of 6-30 day (submonthly) near-surface zonal wind activity in the central and eastern equatorial Indian Ocean is highly correlated with the large-scale zonal SST gradient. The intensity of submonthly variability is largely reduced during positive dipole years. A significant reduction of intraseasonal (30-90 day) wind activity is also evident during large dipole events. However, the correlation with the zonal SST gradient is much weaker than that of submonthly variability.

The mechanism by which the Indian Ocean dipole influences equatorial submonthly winds is investigated based on a cross-correlation analysis of OLR and winds. During negative dipole years, submonthly convection is active in the southeast Indian Ocean where the anomalous convergence of surface moisture associated with dipole events is at its maximum. The submonthly convection in this region is often associated with a cyclonic circulation, and these disturbances propagate westward. Consequently, equatorial westerlies and northwesterly winds near the coast of Sumatra are generated. During positive dipole years, submonthly convective activity is highly reduced in the southeast Indian Ocean, and thus no equatorial westerly is generated.

Ocean response to submonthly disturbances is examined using OGCM experiments forced with winds from the NCEP-NCAR reanalysis. Results suggest that submonthly winds can generate significant upper-ocean response, including strong eastward surface currents near the equator and sea surface height anomalies along the coast of Sumatra where the large SST anomalies associated with dipole events are observed.