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Why do the dark and light ogives of Forbes bands have similar surface mass balances?

  • C. VINCENT (a1), M. DUMONT (a2), D. SIX (a1), F. BRUN (a1), G. PICARD (a1) and L. ARNAUD (a1)...


Band ogives are a striking and enigmatic feature of Mer de Glace glacier flow. The surface mass balances (SMBs) of these ogives have been thoroughly investigated over a period of 12 years. We find similar cumulative SMBs over this period, ranging between −64.1 and −66.2 m w.e., on the dark and light ogives even though the dark ogive albedo is ~40% lower than that of the light ogives. We, therefore, looked for another process that could compensate for the large difference of absorbed short-wave radiation between dark and light ogives. Based on in situ roughness measurements, our numerical modeling experiments demonstrate that a significant difference in turbulent flux over the dark and light ogives due to different surface roughnesses could compensate for the difference in radiative forcing. Our results discard theories for the genesis of band ogives that are based on the assumption of a strong ice ablation contrast between dark and light ogives. More generally, our study demonstrates that future roughness changes are as important to analyze as the radiative impacts of a potential increase of aerosols or debris at the surface of glaciers.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: C. Vincent <>


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