Large-scale biogeographical changes in the biodiversity of a key zooplankton group (calanoid copepods) were detected in the north-eastern part of the North Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas over the period 1960–1999. These findings provided key empirical evidence for climate change impacts on marine ecosystems at the regional to oceanic scale. Since 1999, global temperatures have continued to rise in the region. Here, we extend the analysis to the period 1958–2005 using all calanoid copepod species assemblages (nine species assemblages based on an analysis including a total of 108 calanoid species or taxa) and show that this phenomenon has been reinforced in all regions. Our study reveals that the biodiversity of calanoid copepods are responding quickly to sea surface temperature (SST) rise by moving geographically northward at a rapid rate up to about 23.16 km yr−1. Our analysis suggests that nearly half of the increase in sea temperature in the northeast Atlantic and adjacent seas is related to global temperature rises (46.35% of the total variance of temperature) while changes in both natural modes of atmospheric and oceanic circulation explain 26.45% of the total variance of temperature. Although some SST isotherms have moved northwards by an average rate of up to 21.75 km yr−1 (e.g. the North Sea), their movement cannot fully quantify all species assemblage shifts. Furthermore, the observed rates of biogeographical movements are far greater than those observed in the terrestrial realm. Here, we discuss the processes that may explain such a discrepancy and suggest that the differences are mainly explained by the fluid nature of the pelagic domain, the life cycle of the zooplankton and the lesser anthropogenic influence (e.g. exploitation, habitat fragmentation) on these organisms. We also hypothesize that despite changes in the path and intensity of the oceanic currents that may modify quickly and greatly pelagic zooplankton species, these organisms may reflect better the current impact of climate warming on ecosystems as terrestrial organisms are likely to significantly lag the current impact of climate change.