Decadal-scale regime shifts in Northwest Atlantic shelf ecosystems can be remotely forced by climate-associated atmosphere–ocean interactions in the North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean Basins. This remote climate forcing is mediated primarily by basin- and hemispheric-scale changes in ocean circulation. We review and synthesize results from process-oriented field studies and retrospective analyses of time-series data to document the linkages between climate, ocean circulation, and ecosystem dynamics. Bottom-up forcing associated with climate plays a prominent role in the dynamics of these ecosystems, comparable in importance to that of top-down forcing associated with commercial fishing. A broad perspective, one encompassing the effects of basin- and hemispheric-scale climate processes on marine ecosystems, will be critical to the sustainable management of marine living resources in the Northwest Atlantic.