Bonnie Light

Bonnie LightDr. Light is the current Chair of the Polar Science Center. Her principal research interest is the study of how solar radiation interacts with Earth’s cryosphere. In particular, her focus is on understanding relationships between the physical and optical properties of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The relative amounts of sunlight incident on sea ice that are backscattered to the atmosphere, absorbed by the ice, and transmitted to the ocean depend strongly on the physical properties of the ice. This partitioning of energy in turn controls a significant part of the heat budget of the polar oceans and may influence how sea ice drives and responds to changes in climate.

One aspect of Dr. Light’s work involves the development of theoretical radiative transfer models for snow and ice. She also conducts laboratory experiments within a walk-in freezer using samples of natural and laboratory-grown sea ice. Such experiments give insight into relationships between the ice structure and its optical properties. In particular, they have been instrumental in helping us understand the importance of sea ice microstructure in determining the radiative properties of ice covers. She is also actively engaged in making field observations of the optical properties of snow and sea ice. This work includes investigation of the optical properties of melting ice covers as well as sediment laden sea ice in the Arctic Basin.

Dr. Light enjoys participating in public outreach through the Pacific Science Center. She’s been involved in a Portal to Current Research exhibit “Investigating Arctic Ice Melt” along with fellow Polar Science Center colleagues Axel Schweiger, Ignatius Rigor, Mike Steele.



In The News

Selected Projects

Selected Publications

  • Mudge, M.C., Nunn, B.L., Firth, E., Ewert, M., Hales, K., Fondrie, W.E., Noble, W.S., Toner, J., Light, B. and Junge, K.A., 2021. Subzero, saline incubations of Colwellia psychrerythraea reveal strategies and biomarkers for sustained life in extreme icy environments. Environmental Microbiology.

  • Frantz, C. M., Light, B., Farley, S. M., Carpenter, S., Lieblappen, R., Courville, Z., Orellana, M. V., and Junge, K.: Physical and optical characteristics of heavily melted “rotten” Arctic sea ice, The Cryosphere, 13, 775-793,, 2019.
  • Zhang, J., A. Schweiger, M. Webster, B. Light, M. Steele, C. Ashjian, R. Campbell, and Y. Spitz, Melt pond conditions on declining Arctic sea ice over 1979-2016: Model development, validation, and resultsJ. Geophys. Res. Oceans123,, 2018.

  • Hill, V. J., Light, B., Steele, M., & Zimmerman, R. C. (2018). Light availability and phytoplankton growth beneath Arctic sea ice: Integrating observations and modeling. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 123.

  • Carns, R. C., Light, B. and Warren, S. G. (2016), The spectral albedo of sea ice and salt crusts on the tropical ocean of Snowball Earth: II. Optical modeling. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 121, doi:10.1002/2016JC011804

  • Light, B., Carns, R. C. and Warren, S. G. (2016), The spectral albedo of sea ice and salt crusts on the tropical ocean of Snowball Earth: I. Laboratory measurements. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans. 121, doi:10.1002/2016JC011803

  • Zatko, M., Erbland, J., Savarino, J., Geng, L., Easley, L., Schauer, A., Bates, T., Quinn, P. K., Light, B., Morison, D., Osthoff, H.D., Lyman, S., Neff, W., Yuan, B., and Alexander, B. (2016), The magnitude of the snow-sourced reactive nitrogen flux to the
    boundary layer in the Uintah Basin, Utah, USA, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., doi:10.5194/acp-2016-320

  • Light, B., D. K. Perovich, M. A. Webster, C. Polashenski, and R. Dadic (2015), Optical properties of melting first-year Arctic sea ice, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 120, 7657–7675, doi:10.1002/2015JC011163.

  • Toner, J. D., D. C. Catling, and B. Light (2015), A revised Pitzer model for low-temperature soluble salt assemblages at the Phoenix site, Mars, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 166, 327–343, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2015.06.011.

  • Webster, M. A., I. G. Rigor, D. K. Perovich, J. A. Richter-Menge, C. M. Polashenski, and B. Light (2015), Seasonal evolution of melt ponds on Arctic sea ice, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 120, 5968–5982, doi:10.1002/ 2015JC011030.

  • Light, B., R. C. Carns, and S. G. Warren (2015), “Albedo dome”: a method for measuring spectral flux-reflectance in a laboratory for media with long optical paths, Appl. Opt., 54(17), 5260–5269.

  • Polashenski, C., D. K. Perovich, K. E. Frey, L. W. Cooper, C. I. Logvinova, R. Dadic, B. Light, H. P. Kelly, L. D. Trusel, and M. Webster (2015), Physical and morphological properties of sea ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas during the 2010 and 2011 NASA ICESCAPE missions, Deep. Res. Part II Top. Stud. Oceanogr., 118, 7–17, doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.04.006.

  • Toner, J. D., Catling, D. C., Light, B., Soluble salts at the Phoenix Lander site, Mars: A reanalysis of the Wet Chemistry Laboratory data, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, doi:10.1016/j.gca.2014.03.030, 2014, in press.

  • Matrai, P. A., E. Olson, S. Suttles, V. J. Hill, L. A. Codispoti, B. Light, and M. Steele (2013), Synthesis of primary production in the Arctic Ocean: I. Surface waters, 1954-2007, Prog. Oceanogr., doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2012.11.004.

  • Codispoti, L. A., V. Kelly, A. Thessen, P. Matrai, S. Suttles, V. Hill, M. Steele, and B. Light (2013), Synthesis of primary production in the Arctic Ocean: III. Nitrate and phosphate based estimates of net community production, Prog. Oceanogr., 110, 126-150, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2012.11.006.

  • Goldenson, N, S. J. Doherty, C. M, Bitz, M. M. Holland, B. Light, and A. J. Conley (2012), Arctic climate response to forcing from light-absorbing particles in snow and sea ice in CESM, Atmos. Chem. Phys. 12, 7903-7920, doi: 10.5194/acp-12-7903-2012.

  • Perovich, D.K., J. A. Richer-Menge, K. F. Jones, B. Light, B. C. Elder, C. Polashenski, D. Laroche, T. Markus, R. Lindsay (2011), Arctic  sea- ice melt in 2008 and the role of solar heating, Ann. Glac., 57, 355-359.

  • Perovich, D.K., K. F. Jones, B. Light, H. Eicken, T. Markus, J Stroeve, R. Lindsay (2011), Solar partitioning in a changing Arctic sea-ice cover, Ann. Glac., 52, 192-196.

  • Frey, K.E., D.K. Perovich and B. Light (2011). The spatial distribution of solar radiation under a melting Arctic sea ice cover, Geophysical Research Letters 38: doi:10.1029/2011GL049421.

  • Light, B. (2010), Theoretical and observational techniques for estimating light scattering in first-year Arctic sea ice, invited contribution to Light Scattering Reviews, vol. 5, edited by A. Kokhanovsky, Springer-Praxis, Berlin.

  • Codispoti, L. A., V. Kelly, A.Thessen, P. Matrai, S. Suttles, V. J. Hill, M. Steele, B. Light, Synthesis of primary production in the Arctic Ocean: III. Nitrate and phosphate based estimates of net community production, Prog. Oceanogr., 2010.

  • Light, B., T. C. Grenfell, and D. K. Perovich, “Transmission and absorption of solar radiation by Arctic sea ice during the melt season”, J. Geophys. Res., 113, C03023, doi:10.1029/2006JC003977, 2008.

  • Perovich, D. K., B. Light, H. Eicken, K. F. Jones, K. Runciman, and S. V. Nghiem,’ Increasing solar heating of the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas, 1979–2005: Attribution and role in the ice-albedo feedback’, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L19505, doi:10.1029/2007GL031480, 2007.

  • Huck, P., B. Light, H. Eicken, and M. Haller, “Mapping sediment-laden sea ice in the Arctic using AVHRR remote-sensing data: Atmospheric correction and determination of reflectances as a function of ice type and sediment load“, Remote Sensing of Environment, 107, 484-495, 2007.

  • Grenfell, T. C., B. Light, and D. K. Perovich (2006), Spectral transmission and implications for the partitioning of shortwave radiation in arctic sea ice, Ann. Glac., 44, 1-6.


  • Perovich, D.K., T.C. Grenfell, B. Light, and P.V. Hobbs (2002), Seasonal evolution of the albedo of multiyear Arctic sea ice, J. Geophys. Res., 107(C10), 8044, doi:10.1029/2000JC000438.

  • Grenfell, T.C., B. Light, and M. Sturm (2002), Spatial distribution and radiative effects of soot in the snow and sea ice during the SHEBA experiment, J. Geophys. Res., 107(C10), 8032, 10. 1029/2000JC000414.

  • Frey, K., H. Eicken, D. K. Perovich, T. C. Grenfell, B. Light, L. H. Shapiro, and A. P. Stierle (2001), Heat budget and decay of clean and sediment-laden sea ice off the northern coast of Alaska, Port and Ocean Eng. in the Arctic Conference (POAC’01) Proceedings (3), Ottawa, Canada, 1405-1412.

  • Perovich, D.K., T.C. Grenfell, B. Light, J.A. Richter-Menge, M. Sturm, W.B. Tucker III, H. Eicken, G.A. Maykut, and B. Elder (1999), SHEBA: Snow and Ice Studies CD-ROM.

  • Light, B., H. Eicken, G.A. Maykut, and T. C. Grenfell (1998), The effect of included particulates on the spectral albedo of sea ice, J. Geophys. Res.,103, 27,739-27,752.

  • Maykut, G.A. and B. Light (1995), Refractive-index measurements in freezing sea-ice and sodium chloride brines, Appl. Opt., 34, 950-961.

  • Welch, J. A., B. Light, G. L. Trusty, and T. H. Cosden (1991), A laser test set for the low-power atmospheric compensation experiment satellite, Rep. NRL-FR-9360, 50 pp., Naval Research Laboratory, Washington DC.

  • Light, B. and G. L. Trusty (1990), One-dimensional translation measurement of speckle from rough rotating objects in ultraviolet illumination, Rep. NRL-FR-9293, 68 pp., Naval Research Laboratory, Washington DC.