The accuracy of two satellite models of marine primary (PP) and new production (NP) were assessed against 14C and 15N uptake measurements taken during six research cruises in the northern North Atlantic. The wavelength resolving model (WRM) was more accurate than the Vertical General Production Model (VGPM) for computation of both PP and NP. Mean monthly satellite maps of PP and NP for both models were generated from 1997 to 2010 using SeaWiFS data for the Irminger basin and North Atlantic. Intra- and inter-annual variability of the two models was compared in six hydrographic zones. Both models exhibited similar spatio-temporal patterns: PP and NP increased from April to June and decreased by August. Higher values were associated with the East Greenland Current (EGC), Iceland Basin (ICB) and the Reykjanes Ridge (RKR) and lower values occurred in the Central Irminger Current (CIC), North Irminger Current (NIC) and Southern Irminger Current (SIC). The annual PP and NP over the SeaWiFS record was 258 and 82 gC m− 2 yr− 1 respectively for the VGPM and 190 and 41 gC m− 2 yr− 1 for the WRM. Average annual cumulative sum in the anomalies of NP for the VGPM were positively correlated with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) in the EGC, CIC and SIC and negatively correlated with the multivariate ENSO index (MEI) in the ICB. By contrast, cumulative sum of the anomalies of NP for the WRM were significantly correlated with NAO only in the EGC and CIC. NP from both VGPM and WRM exhibited significant negative correlations with Arctic Oscillation (AO) in all hydrographic zones. The differences in estimates of PP and NP in these hydrographic zones arise principally from the parameterisation of the euphotic depth and the SST dependence of photo-physiological term in the VGPM, which has a greater sensitivity to variations in temperature than the WRM. In waters of 0 to 5 °C PP using the VGPM was 43% higher than WRM, from 5 to 10 °C the VGPM was 29% higher and from 10 to 15 °C the VGPM was 27% higher.