A transfer function was developed to estimate summer and winter paleotemperatures for arctic to tropical regions of the western North Atlantic Ocean using fossil ostracode assemblages. Q-mode factor analysis was run on ostracode assemblages from 100 modern bottom sediment samples from continental shelves of North America, Greenland and the Caribbean using 59 ostracode taxa. Seven factors accounting for 80% of the variance define assemblages that correspond to frigid, subfrigid, cold temperate, mild temperate, warm temperate, subtropical and tropical climatic zones. Multiple regression of the factor matrix against observed February and August bottom temperatures yielded an astracode transfer function with an accuracy of about ??2??C. The transfer function was used to reconstruct middle Pliocene (3.5-3.0 Ma) shallow marine climates of the western North Atlantic during the marine transgression that deposited the Yorktown Formation (Virginia and North Carolina), the Duplin Formation (South and North Carolina) and the Pinecrest beds (Florida). Middle Pliocene paleowater temperatures in Virginia averaged 19??C in August and 13.5??C in February, about 5??C to 8??C warmer than at comparable depths off Virginia today. August and February water temperatures in North Carolina were 23??C and 13.4??C, in South Carolina about 23??C and 13.5??C and in southern Florida about 24.6??C and 15.4??C. Marine climates north of 35??N were warmer than today; south of 35??N, they were about the same or slightly cooler. Thermal gradients along the coast were generally not as steep as they are today. The North Atlantic transfer function can be applied to other shallow marine Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits of eastern North America. ?? 1990 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.