Over the past decade, our understanding of the Indian Ocean has advanced through concerted efforts toward measuring the ocean circulation and air–sea exchanges, detecting changes in water masses, and linking physical processes to ecologically important variables. New circulation pathways and mechanisms have been discovered that control atmospheric and oceanic mean state and variability. This review brings together new understanding of the ocean–atmosphere system in the Indian Ocean since the last comprehensive review, describing the Indian Ocean circulation patterns, air–sea interactions, and climate variability. Coordinated international focus on the Indian Ocean has motivated the application of new technologies to deliver higher-resolution observations and models of Indian Ocean processes. As a result we are discovering the importance of small-scale processes in setting the large-scale gradients and circulation, interactions between physical and biogeochemical processes, interactions between boundary currents and the interior, and interactions between the surface and the deep ocean. A newly discovered regional climate mode in the southeast Indian Ocean, the Ningaloo Niño, has instigated more regional air–sea coupling and marine heatwave research in the global oceans. In the last decade, we have seen rapid warming of the Indian Ocean overlaid with extremes in the form of marine heatwaves. These events have motivated studies that have delivered new insight into the variability in ocean heat content and exchanges in the Indian Ocean and have highlighted the critical role of the Indian Ocean as a clearing house for anthropogenic heat. This synthesis paper reviews the advances in these areas in the last decade.