Arctic sea ice has not only decreased in volume during the last decades, but has also changed in its physical properties towards a thinner and more seasonal ice cover. These changes strongly impact the energy budget, and might affect the ice-associated ecosystems. In this study, we quantify solar shortwave fluxes through sea ice for the entire Arctic during all seasons. To focus on sea-ice-related processes, we exclude fluxes through open water, scaling linearly with sea ice concentration. We present a new parameterization of light transmittance through sea ice for all seasons as a function of variable sea ice properties. The maximum monthly mean solar heat flux under the ice of 30 × 105 Jm−2 occurs in June, enough heat to melt 0.3 m of sea ice. Furthermore, our results suggest that 96% of the annual solar heat input through sea ice occurs during only a 4-month period from May to August. Applying the new parameterization to remote sensing and reanalysis data from 1979 to 2011, we find an increase in transmitted light of 1.5% yr−1 for all regions. This corresponds to an increase in potential sea ice bottom melt of 63% over the 33-year study period. Sensitivity studies reveal that the results depend strongly on the timing of melt onset and the correct classification of ice types. Assuming 2 weeks earlier melt onset, the annual transmitted solar radiation to the upper ocean increases by 20%. Continuing the observed transition from a mixed multi-year/first-year sea ice cover to a seasonal ice cover results in an increase in light transmittance by an additional 18%.