1Biological Sciences Department, Marine Research Institute, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
2Egagasini Offshore Node, South African Environmental Observation Network, Cape Town, South Africa
3Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Laboratoire d'Océanographie et du Climat: Expérimentation et Approches Numériques, UMR7617, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France
4Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UMR212 EME (IRD, IFREMER, Université Montpellier II), Sète cedex, France
5Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Laboratoire de Physique des Océans, UMR6523, Brest, France
6CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula, Goa, India
7Department of Oceanography, Marine Research Institute, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Abstract. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are independent climate modes, which frequently co-occur, driving significant interannual changes within the Indian Ocean. We use a four-decade hindcast from a coupled biophysical ocean general circulation model, to disentangle patterns of chlorophyll anomalies driven by these two climate modes. Comparisons with remotely sensed records show that the simulation competently reproduces the chlorophyll seasonal cycle, as well as open-ocean anomalies during the 1997/1998 ENSO and IOD event. Results suggest that anomalous surface and euphotic-layer chlorophyll blooms in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean in fall, and southern Bay of Bengal in winter, are primarily related to IOD forcing. A negative influence of IOD on chlorophyll concentrations is shown in a region around the southern tip of India in fall. IOD also depresses depth-integrated chlorophyll in the 5–10° S thermocline ridge region, yet the signal is negligible in surface chlorophyll. The only investigated region where ENSO has a greater influence on chlorophyll than does IOD, is in the Somalia upwelling region, where it causes a decrease in fall and winter chlorophyll by reducing local upwelling winds. Yet unlike most other regions examined, the combined explanatory power of IOD and ENSO in predicting depth-integrated chlorophyll anomalies is relatively low in this region, suggestive that other drivers are important there. We show that the chlorophyll impact of climate indices is frequently asymmetric, with a general tendency for larger positive than negative chlorophyll anomalies. Our results suggest that ENSO and IOD cause significant and predictable regional re-organisation of chlorophyll via their influence on near-surface oceanography. Resolving the details of these effects should improve our understanding, and eventually gain predictability, of interannual changes in Indian Ocean productivity, fisheries, ecosystems and carbon budgets.