Vertical wind shear over the tropical Atlantic Ocean plays an important role in mediating hurricane activity. The vertical shear variability over the main development region for Atlantic hurricanes is affected by local factors as well as by the remote influence of the El NioSouthern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, as indicated by observational and climate modeling analyses. Climate model simulations of the ENSOshear relationship are compared with observations. It is shown that there is a strong influence of background mean flow on the ENSOshear relationship, because of the inherently nonlinear nature of vertical wind shear. In particular, the simulation of zonal flow over the tropical Atlantic is shown to play a critical role in how the remote influence of ENSO modulates the shear. Even with realistic simulations of the ENSO-induced westerly anomaly in the upper troposphere, overestimated easterly background flow in the model simulations can alter the relationship between ENSO and vertical wind shear, resulting in decreased vertical wind shear during warm ENSO events. This nonlinear superposition has important implications for the assessment of trends in large-scale environmental factors affecting tropical cyclogenesis in climate change simulations.