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  1. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) results from the instability of and also modulates the strength of the tropical-Pacific cold tongue. While climate models reproduce observed ENSO amplitude relatively well, the majority still simulates its asymmetry between warm (El Niño) and cold (La Niña) phases very poorly. The causes of this major deficiency and consequences thereof are so far not well understood. Analysing both reanalyses and climate models, we here show that simulated ENSO asymmetry is largely proportional to subsurface nonlinear dynamical heating (NDH) along the equatorial Pacific thermocline. Most climate models suffer from too-weak NDH and too-weak linear dynamical ocean-atmosphere coupling. Nevertheless, a sizeable subset (about 1/3) having relatively realistic NDH shows that El Niño-likeness of the equatorial-Pacific warming pattern is linearly related to ENSO amplitude change in response to greenhouse warming. Therefore, better simulating the dynamics of ENSO asymmetry potentially reduces uncertainty in future projections. 
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