On the basis of Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) models, this study have examined the ability of models to capture the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO)–Indian Ocean Basin Mode (IOBM) relationship, and investigated the characteristics of interdecadal change of ENSO–IOBM relationship as well as the response of the ENSO–IOBM relationship to the global warming. Among 23 CMIP5 models, the capability of models in representing the IOBM depends largely on the simulation of ENSO. Moreover, half of the models can reproduce the unstable ENSO–IOBM relationship. Considering the simulations of ENSO, ENSO–IOBM relationship and interdecadal change, 6 of 23 CMIP5 models are chosen for further investigation. The interdecadal change of ENSO–IOBM relationship is relative to the three ENSO-related processes. During the high correlation (HC) period, the tropospheric temperature (TT) mechanism, oceanic Rossby waves and antisymmetric wind pattern are strong, prolonging the persistence of IOBM. In comparison, during the low correlation (LC) period, the three processes are weak. The results show that the shallow thermocline in the southwestern Indian Ocean (SWIO), increased interannual variability and prolonged periodicity of ENSO are all responsible for the interdecadal change.
Furthermore, the possible changes of ENSO–IOBM relationship in the future are investigated. The ENSO-related tropical Indian Ocean (TIO) warming is strengthened under global warming. Despite the deepened thermocline over SWIO and unchanged ENSO activity, the ENSO-related TIO warming is strengthened by the enhanced TT mechanism, which is caused by the increased saturated specific humidity. The results reveal that there is more downward net heat flux (NHF) over the TIO, which is conducive to the TIO warming, and the latent heat flux (LHF) change makes a great contribution to the NHF change. The weakened upward or strengthened downward LHF is possibly due to the decreased anomalous sea–air temperature difference by strengthened TT mechanism.