The curious case of Indian Ocean warming

Recent studies have pointed out an increased warming over the Indian Ocean warm pool (the central-eastern Indian Ocean characterized by sea surface temperatures greater than 28.08C) during the past half-century, although the reasons behind this monotonous warming are still debated. The results here reveal a larger picture—namely, that the western tropical Indian Ocean has been warming for more than a century, at a rate faster than any other region of the tropical oceans, and turns out to be the largest contributor to the overall trend in the global mean sea surface temperature (SST). During 1901–2012, while the Indian Ocean warm pool went through an increase of 0.78C, the western Indian Ocean experienced anomalous warming of 1.28C in summer SSTs. The warming of the generally cool western Indian Ocean against the rest of the tropical warm pool region alters the zonal SST gradients, and has the potential to change the Asian monsoon circulation and rainfall, as well as alter the marine food webs in this biologically productive region.

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