© Author(s) 2019. Continuous atmospheric CO2 monitoring data indicate an increase in the amplitude of seasonal CO2-cycle exchange (SCANBP) in northern high latitudes. The major drivers of enhanced SCANBP remain unclear and intensely debated, with land-use change, CO2 fertilization and warming being identified as likely contributors. We integrated CO2-flux data from two atmospheric inversions (consistent with atmospheric records) and from 11 state-of-the-art land-surface models (LSMs) to evaluate the relative importance of individual contributors to trends and drivers of the SCANBP of CO2 fluxes for 1980-2015. The LSMs generally reproduce the latitudinal increase in SCANBP trends within the inversions range. Inversions and LSMs attribute SCANBP increase to boreal Asia and Europe due to enhanced vegetation productivity (in LSMs) and point to contrasting effects of CO2 fertilization (positive) and warming (negative) on SCANBP. Our results do not support land-use change as a key contributor to the increase in SCANBP. The sensitivity of simulated microbial respiration to temperature in LSMs explained biases in SCANBP trends, which suggests that SCANBP could help to constrain model turnover times.