In this paper, we present passive and active remote sensing measurements of atmospheric aerosols over the North Indian Ocean (NIO) during the Intensive Field Phase (IFP, January to March 1999) of the Indian Ocean Experiment. The variability of the aerosol load over NIO is discussed based on three-dimentional numerical simulations made at a local scale by use of Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS) and at a regional scale using the zoomed Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique global circulation model (LMD-Z version 3.3). Ground-based measurements of the columnar aerosol optical thickness (AOT) and of surface black carbon (BC) concentration were carried out at two different sites in India: Goa University on the NIO coast and Dharwar 150 km inland. Local-scale investigations point out that the trend in BC concentration at the ground is not correlated with AOT. Lidar profiles obtained both from the surface at Goa and in the NIO from the Mystere-20 research aircraft indicate that a significant contribution to the total AOT (more than 50%) is due to a turbid monsoon layer located between 1 and 3 km height. RAMS simulation shows that the advection of aerosols in the monsoon layer is due to the conjunction of land-sea breeze and topography. We present the regional-scale extent of the aerosol plume in terms of AOT derived from the visible channel of Meteosat-5. During March, most of the Bay of Bengal is overcast by a haze with a monthly average AOT of 0.61±0.18, and a spatially well-defined aerosol plume is spreading from the Indian west coast to the Intertropical Convergence Zone with an average AOT of 0.49±0.08. Those values are bigger than in February with AOT at 0.35±0.18 and 0.37±0.09 for the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, respectively. One of the principal findings of this paper is that a significant contribution to the aerosol load over the NIO is due to the advection of continental aerosols from India in a well-identified monsoon layer above the marine boundary layer. Moreover, it is suggested that the increase in biomass burning plays a significant role in the increasing trend in AOT during the winter dry monsoon season.