Ecological processes, such as migration and phenology, are strongly influenced by climate variability. Studying these processes often relies on associating observations of animals and plants with climate variability indices, such as the El Niño–Southern Oscillation. A characteristic of climate indices is the simultaneous emergence of opposite extremes of temperature and precipitation across continental scales, known as climate dipoles. The role of climate dipoles in shaping ecological and evolutionary processes has been largely overlooked. We review emerging evidence that climate dipoles can entrain species dynamics, and offer a framework for identifying ecological dipoles using broad-scale biological data. Given future changes in climatic and atmospheric processes, climate and ecological dipoles will likely shift in their intensity, distribution, and timing.