Abstract. Surface waters from the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean were evaluated for dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and optical characteristics including UV (ultraviolet) radiation and PAR (photosynthetically active radiation) diffuse attenuation (Kd), and chromophoric and fluorescent dissolved organic matter (CDOM and FDOM) as part of the MALINA field campaign (30 July to 27 August). Spectral absorption coefficients (aCDOM (350 nm) (m−1)) were significantly correlated to both diffuse attenuation coefficients (Kd) in the UV-A and UV-B and to DOC concentrations. This indicates CDOM as the dominant attenuator of both UV and PAR solar radiation and suggests its use as an optical proxy for DOC concentrations in this region. While the Mackenzie input is the main driver of CDOM dynamics in low salinity waters, locally, primary production can create significant increases in CDOM. Extrapolating CDOM to DOC relationships, we estimate that ∼16% of the DOC in the Mackenzie River does not absorb radiation at 350 nm. The discharges of DOC and its chromophoric subset (CDOM) by the Mackenzie River during the MALINA cruise are estimated as ∼0.22 TgC and 0.18 TgC, respectively. Three dissolved fluorescent components (C1–C3) were identified by fluorescence excitation/emission matrix spectroscopy (EEMS) and parallel factor (PARAFAC) analysis. Our results showed an aquatic dissolved organic matter (DOM) component (C1), probably produced in the numerous lakes of the watershed, that co-dominated with a terrestrial humic-like component (C2) in the Mackenzie Delta Sector. This aquatic DOM could partially explain the high CDOM spectral slopes observed in the Beaufort Sea.