Times Atlas ‘error’ exaggerates ice retreat on Greenland – Shows green where ice now measures more than 1640 feet (¼ mile) thick.
They just snapped their fingers – and zap! – 115,830 square miles (300,000 sq km) of ice more than ¼-mile thick just disappeared.
That’s an area larger than all six New England states, with New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware thrown in for good measure.
Five days ago, the Daily Mail crowed that cartographers had been forced to erase much of Greenland’s ice because the glaciers had retreated so much in the past 12 years – 15% of Greenland’s former ice-covered land was now “green and ice-free”.
The map makers changed a huge coastal area of Greenland from white to green because of “an alarming acceleration of the melting of the northern ice cap.”
Publicity material furnished by the Times Atlas of the World for its latest edition declared that the change reflected ‘concrete evidence’ that global warming had wiped out glaciers the size of UK and Ireland.
Yesterday, the Daily Mail announced that “the publishers of the world’s most prestigious atlas have been caught out by Cambridge scientists exaggerating the effects of climate change. The Atlas costs £150 ($237) and claims to be the world’s “most authoritative”.
The atlas’s publishers now admit that the ‘ice-free’ areas could in fact still be covered by sheets of more than a quarter of a mile (.4 km) thick!
The areas that the Atlas said were ice free are buried beneath more than 1640 feet (500 meters) of ice!
The admission came after a group of leading polar scientists from Cambridge University wrote to them saying their changes were ‘incorrect and misleading’ and that the true rate of melting has been far slower.
Experts from the University’s internationally-renowned Scott Polar Research Institute said the apparent disappearance of 115,830 sq miles (300,000 sq. km) of ice had no basis in science and was contradicted by recent satellite images.
“There are in fact still numerous glaciers and permanent ice cover where the new Times Atlas shows ice-free conditions and the emergence of new lands,” they said in their letter.
‘We conclude that a sizeable portion of the area mapped as ice-free in the Atlas is clearly still ice-covered. There is to our knowledge no support for this claim in the published scientific literature.’
There are no official figures on how much ice has melted but one scientist put it at between 0.3 and 1.5 per cent of the ice sheet.
Glaciologist Dr Poul Christoffersen of the Scott Institute said: ‘We believe that the figure of a 15 per cent decrease in permanent ice cover since the publication of the previous atlas 12 years ago is both incorrect and misleading.
According to the Times Atlas calculations, the ice sheet would have been shrinking at a rate of 1.5 per cent per year since 1999.
Graham Cogley, professor of geography at Trent University in Canada, said: ‘The best measurements in Greenland, which cover only part of the ice sheet, suggest that 1.5 per cent per year is at least ten times faster than reality.
‘It could easily be 20 times too fast and might well be 50 times too fast.’
Read that again! It “might well be 50 times too fast.’
Dr Jeffrey Kargel, senior research scientist at the University of Arizona, said it was ‘a killer mistake that cannot be winked away.’ “These new maps are ridiculously off base, way exaggerated relative to the reality of rapid change in Greenland,” said Kargel,
A spokesman for HarperCollins yesterday admitted the land shown as green and described as ‘ice-free’ could be up to 500m – more than a quarter of a mile – thick.
She said: ‘I can see why you could see that as misleading.’ (Ya think?)
‘Was it a mistake? asks journalist Tamara Cohen. “I can only speculate that the people promoting the map were thinking differently from the cartographers.”
Today, 20 Sep 11, HarperCollins announced that it stands by the accuracy of the maps, but that the media release suggesting 15% of Greenland’s permanent ice cover had melted was incorrect.
The publishers’ statement left scientists puzzled.
Thanks to Emma Corry, Terry Pack, Icewoman, Bill Sellers, Michelle Marshall, Cary Ellis, Jason Hietanen and Linda Binutti for these links
The Times Atlas is published by Times Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, which is in turn owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.