Paired planktic foraminiferal δ18O and Mg/Ca data reveal trends of increasing temperatures (∼3 °C) and salinities in the subpolar North Atlantic over the course of the Holocene, which were punctuated by abrupt events. The trends likely reflect an insolation-forced northward retreat of the boundary between polar and North Atlantic subsurface waters. The superimposed variability does not appear to be periodic, but tends to recur within a broad millennial band. The records provide convincing evidence of open-ocean cooling (nearly 2 °C) and freshening during the 8.2 ka event, and suggest similar conditions at 9.3 ka. However, the two largest temperature oscillations in our record (∼2 °C) occurred during the past 4 k.y., suggesting a recent increase in temperature variability relative to the mid-Holocene, perhaps in response to neoglaciation, which began at about this time.