Glacier-wide summer surface mass-balance calculation: hydrological balance applied to the Argentière and Mer de Glace drainage basins (Mont Blanc)

Viani, A. ; Condom, T. ; Vincent, C. ; Rabatel, A. ; Bacchi, B. ; Sicart, J. E. ; Revuelto, Jesus ; Six, D. ; Zin, I.

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We present the glacier-wide summer surface mass balances determined by a detailed hydrological balance (sSMBhydro) and the quantification of the uncertainties of the calculations on the Argentière and Mer de Glace-Leschaux drainage basins, located in the upper Arve watershed (French Alps), over the period 1996-2004. The spatial distribution of precipitation within the study area was adjusted using in situ winter mass-balance measurements. The sSMBhydro performance was assessed via a comparison with the summer surface mass balances based on in situ glaciological observations (sSMBglacio). Our results show that the sSMBhydro has an uncertainty of ± 0.67 m w.e. a−1 at Argentière and ± 0.66 m w.e. a−1 at Mer de Glace-Leschaux. Estimates of the Argentière sSMBhydro values are in good agreement with the sSMBglacio values. These time series show almost the same interannual variability. From the marked difference between the sSMBhydro and sSMBglacio values for the Mer de Glace-Leschaux glacier, we suspect a significant role of groundwater fluxes in the hydrological balance. This study underlines the importance of taking into account the groundwater transfers to represent and predict the hydro-glaciological behaviour of a catchment.
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