Coccolith and dinoflagellate cyst assemblages have been investigated in five sediment cores from the Norwegian Sea and Fram Strait. Both fossil groups are characterized by similar patterns of composition. The assemblages contain high proportions of single species. The coccolith flora is of low diversity and consists almost entirely of Coccolithus pelagicus and Emiliania huxleyi. The dinoflagellate cysts are generally dominated by Operculodinium centrocarpum and Nematosphaeropsis labyrinthus. Other species, especially Bitectatodinium tepikiense, Peridinium faeroense and Impagidinium pallidum, sometimes contribute considerably to the assemblages.Based on the abundance of the assemblages and the ratio change between the dominating species it has been possible to establish three intervals of distinct major changes in surface water mass conditions. Sparse occurrences of coccoliths and dinoflagellate cysts have been observed before 10,000 yrs. B.P., indicating harsh environmental conditions with a distinct influence of meltwater and temporarily very slight inflow of Atlantic water. The modern surface-water circulation pattern was reinitiated during Termination IB. The assemblages suggest slightly cooler and probably less saline surface water conditions than are present today until 7500 yrs B.P. Solar insolation may have caused a first temperature peak which is responsible for the early Holocene productivity maximum. A considerable change in the composition of dinocyst and coccolith assemblages occurs corresponding approximately to the onset of the Holocene climatic optimum. This change was most probably linked to an almost synchronous reorganization of the hydrographic properties in the entire North Atlantic realm after the ice sheets had vanished. Since 6000 yrs B.P. the Norwegian Current with its modern oceanographic and ecological properties has been fully established.