Variations in multiyear sea-ice backscatter from the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) aboard the ERS-1 satellite are interpreted in terms of melt-season characteristics (onset of melt in spring and of freeze-up in autumn, and the duration of the snow-decay period, the melt season, and the melt-pond season) from late winter to early autumn 1992 in two regions of the Arctic Ocean: the northeastern Beaufort Sea adjacent to the Queen Elizabeth Islands in the Canadian high Arctic and the western Beaufort Sea north of Alaska. In the northeastern Beaufort Sea, the onset of melt occurs later, and the periods of snow-cover decay and the occurrence of melt ponds are shorter than in the western Beaufort Sea. These melt-season characteristics of each area are consistent with previous observations that the northeastern Beaufort Sea has one of the most severe summer climates in the Arctic Ocean. A model, which assumes that the backscatter from multiyear floes is the sum of backscatter from bare ice and melt ponds, is used to derive the melt-pond fraction during the summer. The results show that melt-pond fractions decrease from an early-summer maximum of about 60% to a late-summer minimum around 10%. The magnitude of the melt-pond fractions and their decline during the summer is consistent with previous, more qualitative data. The SAR model, which gives melt-pond fractions with lower variability and less uncertainty than previous data, offers an improved approach to the reliable estimation of the areal extent of water on ice floes. Suggestions for further improvement of the model include accounting for the consequences of wind-speed variations, summer snowfall, and freeze/thaw cycles and their effects on melt-pond and ice-surface roughness.