High-resolution ocean general circulation model (OGCM) simulations are employed to investigate interannual variability of the upper-ocean temperature in the tropical Indian Ocean (20°S–20°N). The seasonal cycle and interannual variability in the upper-ocean temperature in the tropical Indian Ocean in the forced ocean simulation are in good agreement with available observation and reanalysis products. Two further sensitivity OGCM simulations are used to separate the relative contributions of heat flux and wind stress. The comparison of the model simulations reveals the depth-dependent influences of heat flux and wind stress on the ocean temperature variability in the tropical Indian Ocean. Generally, heat flux dominates the temperature variability in the top 30 m, while wind stress contributes most strongly to the subsurface temperature variability below 30 m. This implies that a transition depth should exist at each location, where the dominant control of the ocean temperature variability switched from heat flux to wind stress. We define the depth of this transition point as the 'crossing depth' and make use of this concept to better understand the depth-dependent impacts of the heat flux and wind stress on the upper-ocean temperature variability in the tropical Indian Ocean. The crossing depth tends to be shallower in the southern tropical Indian Ocean (20°S-EQ), including the Seychelles-Chagos Thermocline Ridge (SCTR) and the eastern part of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), suggesting the dominance of forcing due to wind stress and the resulting ocean dynamical processes in the temperature variability in those regions. The crossing depth also shows prominent seasonal variability in the southern tropical Indian Ocean. In the SCTR, the variability of the subsurface temperature forced by the wind stress dominates largely in boreal winter and spring, resulting in the shallow crossing depth in these seasons. In contrast, the intensified subsurface temperature variability with shallow crossing depth in the eastern part of the IOD is seen during boreal autumn. Overall, our results suggest that the two regions within the tropical Indian Ocean, the SCTR and the eastern part of the IOD, are the primary locations where the ocean dynamics due to wind-stress forcing control the upper-ocean temperature variability.