Air–sea fluxes from the Community Climate System Model version 4 (CCSM4) are compared with the Coordinated Ocean-Ice Reference Experiment (CORE) dataset to assess present-day mean biases, variability errors, and late twentieth-century trend differences. CCSM4 is improved over the previous version, CCSM3, in both air–sea heat and freshwater fluxes in some regions; however, a large increase in net shortwave radiation into the ocean may contribute to an enhanced hydrological cycle. The authors provide a new baseline for assessment of flux variance at annual and interannual frequency bands in future model versions and contribute a new metric for assessing the coupling between the atmospheric and oceanic planetary boundary layer (PBL) schemes of any climate model. Maps of the ratio of CCSM4 variance to CORE reveal that variance on annual time scales has larger error than on interannual time scales and that different processes cause errors in mean, annual, and interannual frequency bands. Air temperature and specific humidity in the CCSM4 atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) follow the sea surface conditions much more closely than is found in CORE. Sensible and latent heat fluxes are less of a negative feedback to sea surface temperature warming in the CCSM4 than in the CORE data with the model’s PBL allowing for more heating of the ocean’s surface.