A new planktic foraminifer transfer function (GSF18) related 5 North Atlantic assemblages to winter and summer sea surface temperature. GSF18, based on recombined and simplified core top census data, preserves most environmental information and reproduces modern North Atlantic conditions with approximately the same accuracy as previous transfer functions, but can be more readily applied to faunal samples ranging in age from Pliocene to Holocene. Transfer function GSF18 has been applied to faunal data from Deep Sea Drilling Project Hole 552A to produce a 2.5 m.y. sea-surface temperature (SST) time series. Estimates show several periods between 2.3 and 4.6 Ma during which mean SST's were both several degrees warmer and several degrees cooler than modern conditions. Between 2.9 and 4.0 Ma SST was generally warmer than modern except for a 250 k.y. interval centered at 3.3 Ma. Maximum SST, with respect to modern conditions, occurred after the cool interval near 3.1 Ma when SST was approximately 3.6??C warmer than present conditions. Comparison of SST estimates with stable isotope data suggest that after peak warming at 3.1 Ma, there was an overall surface water cooling with concomitant build up of global ice volume, culminating in Northern Hemisphere glaciation. This event is also indicated by the presence of ice rafted detritus in 552A sediments at about 2.45 Ma. ?? 1990 Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.