The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) depicts annual and decadal oscillatory modes of variability responsible for dry spells over the European continent. The NAO therefore holds a great potential to evaluate the role, as carbon sinks, of water-limited forests under climate change. However, uncertainties related to inconsistent responses of long-term forest productivity to NAO have so far hampered firm conclusions on its impacts. We hypothesize that, in part, such inconsistencies might have their origin in periodical sea surface temperature anomalies in the Atlantic Ocean (i.e., Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, AMO). Here we show strong empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis using 120 years of periodical inventory data from Iberian pine forests. Our results point to AMO+ NAO+ and AMO−NAO− phases as being critical for forest productivity, likely due to decreased winter water balance and abnormally low winter temperatures, respectively. Our findings could be essential for the evaluation of ecosystem functioning vulnerabilities associated with increased climatic anomalies under unprecedented warming conditions in the Mediterranean.