From the interpretation of different proxy data it is widely believed that the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation during the maximum of the last ice age !21,000 years ago was considerably weaker than today. Recent equilibrium simulations with a coupled ocean-atmosphere-sea ice model successfully simulated a reduction in North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) formation consistent with reconstructions. Here we examine the influence of different air-sea fluxes on simulated changes in the deep ocean circulation between the Last Glacial Maximum and present day. We find that changes in the oceanic surface freshwater fluxes are the dominant forcing mechanism for the reduced Atlantic overturning. Diminished export of freshwater out of the Atlantic drainage basin through the atmosphere decreases surface salinities in the North Atlantic, leading to less NADW formation in the colder climate. Changes in heat fluxes, which lead to increased sea surface densities in the North Atlantic and therefore to an enhanced overturning, are of secondary importance. Wind stress variations seem to play a negligible role. The degree to which the Atlantic freshwater export and hence the NADW formation are reduced depends on the formulation of the atmospheric hydrological cycle and on the strength of the overturning in the present-day simulation. Simulated changes in sea surface properties for a large variety of overturning strengths are compared with different reconstruction data sets. The results depend strongly on the data set used. Sea surface temperature reconstructions from Climate: Long-Range Investigation, Mapping, and Prediction (CLIMAP) and earlier salinity reconstructions based on planktonic foraminifera are most consistent with a significant reduction of the circulation, while recent reconstructions using dinocyst assemblages allow no unequivocal conclusion.