This page was originally created in 1998 and collected together information about the optical absorption of water that I digitized or transcribed as well as data from long-dead websites created by Warren Wiscombe, Piotr J. Flatau, and Scott Pegau.

The only significant discrepancies in the data below are in the visible (300-600nm) where the absorption is so low. Recent work by Pope and Sogandares on the absorption coefficient of water in this regime indicates that it is significantly lower than that found by most previous investigators. Moreover, the minimum absorption wavelength is now at about 420nm instead of in the green. Practically, this makes very little difference in biomedical applications, since the water used by Fry's group was extremely pure.

The data is surprisingly consistent. Plot a couple for yourself, or you can just look at (Segelstein) or (Hale and Querry) or (Wieliczka).

The Compendium

(all references in BibTeX format)
1929 Becquerel and Rossignol (abstract) (pdf of paper)

1940 Dorsey (abstract)
Properties of the Ordinary Water Substance in all Its Phases

1963 Sullivan (abstract) (data)
Experimental study of the absorption in distilled water, artificial sea water, and heavy water in the visible region of the spectrum

1968 Irvine and Pollack (abstract) (data)
Infrared optical properties of water and ice spheres

1969 Zolotarev et al. (abstract) (data)
Dispersion and absorption of liquid water in the infrared and radio regions of the spectrum

1973 Hale and Querry (abstract) (gif) (data)
Optical constants of water in the 200nm to 200µm wavelength region

1974 Palmer and Williams (abstract) (data)
Optical properties of water in the near infrared

1976 Austin and Halikas (abstract)
The index of refraction of seawater
         Kopelevich (abstract) (data)
Optical properties of pure water in the 250-600nm range

1977 Morel and Prieur (abstract) (data)
Analysis of variations in ocean color

1978 Querry, Cary, and Waring (abstract) (data)
Split-pulse laser method for measuring attenuation coefficients of transparent liquids: application to deionized filtered water in the visible region

1979 Tam and Patel (abstract) (data)
Optical absorption of light and heavy water by laser optoacoustic spectroscopy

1980 Quickenden and Irvin (abstract) (data) (original table)
The ultraviolet absorption spectrum of liquid water

1981 Prieur and Sathyendranath (abstract) (data)
An optical classification of coastal and oceanic waters based on the specific spectral absorption curves of phytoplankton pigments dissolved organic matter, and other particulate materials
         Segelstein (abstract) (gif) (data) (refractive index)
The complex refractive index of water
         Smith and Baker (abstract) (data)
Optical properties of the clearest natural waters (200-800nm)

1982 Baker and Smith (abstract)
Bio-optical classification and model of natural waters

1984 Warren (abstract) (data revised 1005)
Optical Constants of Ice from the Ultraviolet to the Microwave

1986 Boivan et al. (abstract) (data)
Determination of the attenuation coefficients of visible and ultraviolet radiation in heavy water

1988 Shifrin (abstract) (data)
Physical Optics of Ocean Water

1989 Wieliczka, Weng, and Querry (abstract) (gif) (data)
Wedge shaped cell for highly absorbent liquids: infrared optical constants of water

1990 Schiebener et al. (abstract)
Refractive index of water and steam as function of wavelength, temperature and density

1991 Perovich and Govoni (abstract)
Absorption Coefficients of Ice from 250 to 400nm
         Querry, Wieliczka, and Segelstein (abstract) (data)
Water (H2O)
         Sogandares (abstract)
The spectral absorption of pure water

1992 Fry, Kattawar, and Pope (abstract)
Integrating cavity absorption meter

1993 Aly and Esmail (abstract)
Refractive index of salt water: effect of temperature
         Kou (abstract)
Refractive indices of water and ice in the 0.65-2.5µm spectral range
         Kou, Labrie, and Chylek (abstract) (data)
Refractive indices of water and ice in the 0.65-2.5µm spectral range
         Pope (abstract) (data)
Optical absorption of pure water and sea water using the integrating cavity absorption meter

1994 Buiteveld, Hakvoort, and Donze (abstract) (data)
The optical properties of pure water

1995 Bricaud et al. (abstract) (data)
Variability in the chlorophyll-specific absorption coefficients of natural phytoplankton: analysis and parameterization
         Quan and Fry (abstract)
Empirical equation for the index of refraction of seawater
         Zelsmann (abstract)
Temperature dependence of the optical constants for liquid H2O and D2O in the far IR region

1997 Pope and Fry (abstract) (data)
Absorption spectrum (380-700nm) of pure water. II. Integrating cavity measurements
         Sogandares and Fry (abstract) (data)
Absorption spectrum (340-640nm) of pure water. I. Photothermal Measurements