An understanding of the interaction between ice sheet dynamics and forcing mechanisms, such as oceanic and atmospheric circulation, is important because of the potential contribution of these processes to constraining models that seek to predict future rates of sea-level change. Here we report new benthic foraminiferal data from Disko Bugt, West Greenland, showing a close correlation between subsurface ocean temperature changes and the ice margin position of the glacier Jakobshavn Isbrae over the past 100 yr. In particular, our faunal data show that warm ocean currents entered a bay, Disko Bugt, during the retreat phases of Jakobshavn Isbrae from A.D. 1920 to 1950 and since 1998. We also show a link between West Greenland ocean temperature and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, a key climate indicator in the North Atlantic Ocean. The close coupling between the oceans and the cryosphere identified here should be assessed in future projections of sea-level change.