This paper evaluates the relative contribution of light and temperature on net ecosystem CO2 uptake during the 2006 growing season in a polygonal tundra ecosystem in the Lena River Delta in Northern Siberia (72°22´ N, 126°30´ E). The occurrence and frequency of warm periods may be an important determinant of the magnitude of the ecosystem’s carbon sink function, as they drive temperature-induced changes in respiration. Hot spells during the early portion of the growing season, when the photosynthetic apparatus of vascular plants is not fully developed, are shown to be more influential in creating positive mid-day surface-to-atmosphere net ecosystem CO2 exchange fluxes than those occurring later in the season. In this work we also develop and present a multi-step bulk flux partition model to better account for tundra plant physiology and the specific light conditions of the arctic region. These conditions preclude the successful use of traditional partition methods that derive a respiration–temperature relationship from all nighttime data or from other bulk approaches that are insensitive to temperature or light stress. Nighttime growing season measurements are rare during the arctic summer, however, so the new method allows for temporal variation in the parameters describing both ecosystem respiration and gross uptake by fitting both processes at the same time. Much of the apparent temperature sensitivity of respiration seen in the traditional partition method is revealed in the new method to reflect seasonal changes in basal respiration rates. Understanding and quantifying the flux partition is an essential precursor to describing links between assimilation and respiration at different timescales, as it allows a more confident evaluation of measured net exchange over a broader range of environmental conditions. The growing season CO2 sink estimated by this study is similar to those reported previously for this site, and is substantial enough to withstand the long, low-level respiratory CO2 release during the rest of the year to maintain the site’s CO2 sink function on an annual basis.