Abstract. A series of papers have suggested that freshwater discharge, including a large amount of dissolved organic matter (DOM), has increased since the middle of the 20th century. In this study, a semi-analytical algorithm for estimating light absorption coefficients of the colored fraction of DOM (CDOM) was developed for southern Beaufort Sea waters using remote sensing reflectance at six wavelengths in the visible spectral domain corresponding to MODIS ocean color sensor. This algorithm allows the separation of colored detrital matter (CDM) into CDOM and non-algal particles (NAP) through the determination of NAP absorption using an empirical relationship between NAP absorption and particle backscattering coefficients. Evaluation using independent datasets, which were not used for developing the algorithm, showed that CDOM absorption can be estimated accurately to within an uncertainty of 35% and 50% for oceanic and coastal waters, respectively. A previous paper (Matsuoka et al., 2012) showed that dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations were tightly correlated with CDOM absorption in our study area (r2 = 0.97). By combining the CDOM absorption algorithm together with the DOC versus CDOM relationship, it is now possible to estimate DOC concentrations in the near-surface layer of the southern Beaufort Sea using satellite ocean color data. DOC concentrations in the surface waters were estimated using MODIS ocean color data, and the estimates showed reasonable values compared to in situ measurements. We propose a routine and near real-time method for deriving DOC concentrations from space, which may open the way to an estimate of DOC budgets for Arctic coastal waters.