Glacier Features: Ogives

Ogives are bands that form on some glaciers just below icefalls. The bands alternate in both height and color, and result from seasonal patterns. Darker bands form through increased melt and refreezing in the summer, when sediment collects on the glacier surface. Lighter bands form in cooler months, when snow accumulates and traps tiny air bubbles. Because the ice flows faster down the center of the glacier, where it has less friction with surrounding bedrock, the ogives are shaped into arcs that point towards the end of the glacier.

Mer de Glace photographed by Richard JonesOgives form a distinct pattern on the surface of France's Mer De Glace Glacier, photographed here in 2009. —Credit: Richard Jones

Arolla Glacier ogivesOgives form on the surface of Arolla Glacier, Switzerland, after it flows over a steep section of the landscape. —Credit: Photograph by Harry Fielding Reid. 1902. Arolla Glacier: From the Glacier Photograph Collection. Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Last updated: 16 March 2020