Mohapatra, S. and Gnanaseelan, C., 2020. Warming trends in the central equatorial Indian Ocean and the associated coupled feedback processes. In: Sheela Nair, L.; Prakash, T.N.; Padmalal, D., and Kumar Seelam, J. (eds.), Oceanic and Coastal Processes of the Indian Seas. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 89, pp. 39-45. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
The recent increasing trends in the tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) temperature have strong impact on the regional as well as global climate variability. In this work we studied the changes in the boreal summer monsoon winds and the associated monsoon currents on modulating the surface and subsurface temperature of the equatorial Indian Ocean. The reduction in the meridional sea surface temperature (SST) gradient and strengthening of zonal SST gradient over the Indian Ocean reduced the northward propagation of south-westerly wind, thereby enhancing the surface westerlies over the equator. The strengthened surface westerlies increased the equatorial downwelling Kelvin waves and deepened the thermocline. The present study unravels the causes for the observed confinement of strong SST trend over the central equatorial Indian Ocean (CEIO) even though surface westerlies and the associated downwelling extend upto the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (EEIO). In contrast to the CEIO surface warming, EEIO experienced strong subsurface warming at thermocline. Our analysis suggests that the upper ocean stratification plays an important role in the observed warming trend of both CEIO surface and EEIO subsurface. The eastward equatorial currents bring warm salty water from Arabian Sea and WEIO towards east and warms CEIO, however the high saline surface water is found to sink in the EEIO, thereby warming the subsurface instead of surface. The composite of temperature anomaly for the period 1978-2002, the period of warm Pacific Decadal Oscillation, shows patterns similar to temperature trends, which clearly suggests the dominance of decadal variability on the TIO temperature trends.