Névé is the French term for snow that has accumulated on a glacier, has remained through one or more melt seasons, and has begun the recrystallizing process that will eventually turn it to glacial ice. The more common term is the German word firn. Firn’s crystals have lost the delicate pointed edges of the original snowflakes and are somewhat compacted but have yet to become ice. Aerial views or photographs of glaciers can clearly reveal areas of firn where the newer snow appears fresh and white compared to the denser grayish ice. The lower edge of the firn area—the firn line—distinguishes the accumulation zone, where snow is amassing near the head of the glacier, from the ablation zone, where more of the glacier’s snow and ice is lost than gained.

Carolyn Servid