We examine the oceanic impact of large tropical volcanic eruptions as they appear in ensembles of historical simulations from eight Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 models. These models show a response that includes lowering of global average sea surface temperature by 0.1–0.3 K, comparable to the observations. They show enhancement of Arctic ice cover in the years following major volcanic eruptions, with long-lived temperature anomalies extending to the middepth and deep ocean on decadal to centennial timescales. Regional ocean responses vary, although there is some consistent hemispheric asymmetry associated with the hemisphere in which the eruption occurs. Temperature decreases and salinity increases contribute to an increase in the density of surface water and an enhancement in the overturning circulation of the North Atlantic Ocean following these eruptions. The strength of this overturning increase varies considerably from model to model and is correlated with the background variability of overturning in each model. Any cause/effect relationship between eruptions and the phase of El Niño is weak.