In glaciology and meteorology, ablation—the opposite of accumulation—refers to all processes that remove snow, ice, or water from a glacier or snowfield.[1] Ablation refers to the melting of snow or ice that runs off the glacier, evaporation, sublimation, calving, or erosive removal of snow by wind. Air temperature is typically the dominant control of ablation with precipitation exercising secondary control. In a temperate climate during ablation season, ablation rates typically average around 2 mm/hr.[2] Where solar radiation is the dominant cause of snow ablation (e.g., if air temperatures are low under clear skies), characteristic ablation textures such as suncups and penitentes may develop on the snow surface.[3]


  1. Paterson, W. S. B. 1999. The Physics of Glaciers. Tarrytown, N.Y., Pergamon. 496 p.
  2. Glossary of Meteorology
  3. Betterton, M. D. "Theory of structure formation in snowfields motivated by penitentes, suncups, and dirt cones." Physical Review E 63.5 (2001): 056129.