Concentrations of chlorophyll a/freshweight (Chl a FW) and photosynthetic pigments/chlorophyll a were studied during one growing season in the current year's (CYN) and last year's needles (LYN) from Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) grown under natural or close-to-natural climate. Climate regimes differed in photosynthetic active radiation (PAR), temperature (T) and UV-B radiation. Pigments were not affected by UV-B but most of the differences between climate regimes, and also seasonal variations within climate regimes, could be related to PAR and T. Generally, two types of response to climate were observed: firstly, pigments reacted primarily to PAR without marked sensitivity to T and exhibited slow response times (> 30 d), and, secondly, pigments were affected by the combined action of PAR and T and responded faster than 20 d. The Chl a FW and chlorophyll b/chloprophyll a ratio exhibited slow-type response in CYN and fast-type response in LYN. Higher amplitudes in CYN than in LYN were observed for the latter two parameters, which are known to be associated with levels of pigment–protein complexes. It is suggested that slow response in CYN ensures that the high investments in proteins in these needles occur only in response to longer-lasting climate episodes.