Three field manipulation experiments were carried out during 1993–1995 on the Northern Pennines to investigate the influences of temperature, solar radiation and rainfall on the release of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from vegetated soil cores using zero-tension lysimeters. The cores were manipulated by being translocated to four sites down a climatic gradient, by artificial soil heating or being exposed to double normal rainfall. In each experiment three soil types, a brown earth, a micropodzol and a peaty gley, with differing organic matter content and distribution within the profile, were studied. DOC data, expressed as mg C m−2 day−1, were analysed following log10 transformation, by a repeated measures analysis of variance procedure, using climatic variables measured concurrently with sampling, and 1 and 2 months before sampling. DOC release was dominated by rainfall but was also associated with solar radiation and temperature. With each of the three climatic variables, rainfall, solar radiation and temperature, both positive and negative effects on DOC release have been found significant, indicating that the concurrent and delayed effects of the same variable may be different. DOC release was positively related with all three soils to concurrent rainfall, indicating rainfall's primary leaching action. DOC release was also negatively related to rainfall of the previous month indicating that its action depletes the leachable pool of DOC in the soil. DOC release was positively associated with solar radiation 2 months earlier, indicating that DOC's main source is that of primary production; DOC peaks closely followed peaks of annual primary production. DOC release was linked with temperature, the strongest association being with temperature 2 months earlier, indicating that temperature effects both primary production and DOC regeneration via organic matter decomposition. A conceptual model, relating our findings to those processes known to govern DOC release from soils, has been presented.