The seasonal progression of snow melt on the Arctic pack ice is mapped from satellite shortwave imagery (0.4–1.1 micrometers) for four spring/summer seasons (1977, 1979, 1984 and 1985). This provides the first detailed information on the temporal change of the ice surface albedo in summer and of its year-to-year variability. The average surface albedo of the Arctic Basin for the years investigated falls from between 0.75 and 0.80 in early May to between 0.35 and 0.45 in late July and early August. In the central Arctic, where ice concentration remains high and ponding on the ice is limited, the July albedo ranges from 0.50 to 0.60. Overall, melt progresses poleward from the Kara and Barents Seas and from the southern Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, with the melt fronts meeting on the American side of the Pole. There are substantial year-to-year differences in the timing, duration and extent of the melt interval. The progression of melt in May and June of the earliest melt year (1977) was about 3 weeks ahead of the latest year (1979). By late July, the central Arctic was essentially snow free in 1977 and 1979, but more than 50% snow covered in 1984. Although limited in extent, our data base suggests relationships between snow melt and Arctic surface air temperatures in spring, spring cloudiness and the extent of late summer ice.