El NinoSouthern Oscillation (ENSO) is regarded as the main driver of phytoplankton inter-annual variability. Remotely sensed surface chlorophyll-a (Chl-a), has made it possible to examine phytoplankton variability at a resolution and scale that allows for the investigation of climate signals such as ENSO. We provide empirical evidence of an immediate and lagged influence of ENSO on SeaWiFS and MODIS-Aqua derived global Chl-a concentrations. We use 13 years of Chl-a remotely sensed observations along with sea surface temperature (SST) observations across the Tropical and South Pacific to isolate and examine the spatial development of Chl-a anomalies during ENSO: its canonical or eastern Pacific (EP) mode, and El Nino Modoki or central Pacific (CP) mode, using the extended empirical orthogonal function (EEOF) technique. We describe how an EP ENSO phase transition affects Chl-a, and identify an interannual CP mode of variability induced spatial pattern. We argue that when ENSO is analysed as a propagating signal by the EEOF, CP ENSO is found to be more influential on Chl-a interannual to decadal variability than the canonical EP ENSO. Our results cannot confirm the independence of the two ENSO modes but clearly demonstrate that both ENSO flavors manifest a distinct biological response.