Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar, in the North Atlantic are managed as a set of population complexes distributed in North America and Europe. In recent years, these complexes have experienced reduced marine survival and many populations within the complexes are at risk, especially those at the southern ends of the species amphi-Atlantic range. Atlantic salmon is an anadromous fish dividing its life history between residence in freshwater and the marine environment. The freshwater portion of the life history includes spawning and the rearing of juveniles where in-river production has tended to be relatively stable, whereas the first year at sea, termed the post-smolt year, is characterized by more variable rates of mortality. Although their habitats are widely separated geographically along the North Atlantic seaboards, strong recruitment coherence exists between North American and European stock complexes. This recruitment coherence is correlated with ocean temperature variation associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) appears to be relatively unimportant as a driver of salmon abundance. The mechanism determining the link between AMO-related thermal variation and abundance appears to differ fundamentally for the two continental stock groupings. Whereas ocean climate variability during the first springtime months of juvenile salmon migration to sea appears to be important to the survival of North American stocks, summer climate variation appears to be central to adult recruitment variation for European stocks. This contrast in seasonal effects appears to be related to the varying roles of predation pressure and size-related mortality on the continental stock complexes. The anticipated warming due to global climate change will impose thermal conditions on salmon populations outside historical context and challenge the ability of many populations to persist. Published by Elsevier B.V.