The causes and characteristics of interannual–decadal variability of the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) in the North Atlantic are investigated with a suite of basin-scale ocean models [the Family of Linked Atlantic Model Experiments (FLAME)] and global ocean–ice models (ORCA), varying in resolution from medium to eddy resolving (½°–1/12°), using various forcing configurations built on bulk formulations invoking atmospheric reanalysis products. Comparison of the model hindcasts indicates similar MOC variability characteristics on time scales up to a decade; both model architectures also simulate an upward trend in MOC strength between the early 1970s and mid-1990s. The causes of the MOC changes are examined by perturbation experiments aimed selectively at the response to individual forcing components. The solutions emphasize an inherently linear character of the midlatitude MOC variability by demonstrating that the anomalies of a (non–eddy resolving) hindcast simulation can be understood as a superposition of decadal and longer-term signals originating from thermohaline forcing variability, and a higher-frequency wind-driven variability. The thermohaline MOC signal is linked to the variability in subarctic deep-water formation, and rapidly progressing to the tropical Atlantic. However, throughout the subtropical and midlatitude North Atlantic, this signal is effectively masked by stronger MOC variability related to wind forcing and, especially north of 30°–35°N, by internally induced (eddy) fluctuations.