[CRYOLIST] Fwd: Letter to The Times (from glaciologists at the Scott Polar Research Institute)

Poul Christoffersen pc350 at cam.ac.uk
Sat Sep 17 02:11:37 PDT 2011

Dear all,

A number of people have asked me to circulate the letter we sent to The Times yesterday. Apologies to those who are not interested.

The letter is pasted into the e-mail below and a figure is attached. The figure (tiff) shows the error in the new Times map of Greenland when compared to MODIS imagery from august 2011. It looks like the cartographers defined the ice sheet margin at the 500 m contour.  

I am not sure whether the attachment will come through this e-mail. If not, please send me an e-mail and I'll forward it that way.


Poul Christoffersen
Scott Polar Research Institute

Dear Sir, 
A media release accompanying the publication of the 13th edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World states that the Atlas is ‘turning Greenland ‘green’’. We are extremely puzzled by this statement and the claim that ‘For the first time, the new edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World has had to erase 15% of Greenland’s once permanent ice cover – turning an area the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland ‘green’ and ice-free’. We write to point out that a 15% decrease in permanent ice cover since the publication of the previous atlas 12 years is both incorrect and misleading.

Recent satellite images of Greenland make it clear that 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.  Furthermore, the low-lying fringe of the main ice sheet appears to be shown as land, not ice. 

A sizable portion of the area mapped as ice-free in the Atlas is clearly still ice-covered. We do not know why this error has occurred, but it is regrettable that the claimed drastic reduction in the extent of ice in Greenland has created headline news around the world. There is to our knowledge no support for this claim in the published scientific literature.

We do not disagree with the statement that climate is changing and that the Greenland Ice Sheet is affected by this. It is, however, crucial to report climate change and its impact accurately and to back bold statements with concrete and correct evidence. The volume of ice contained in the Greenland Ice Sheet is approximately 2.9 million cubic kilometers and the current rate whereby ice is lost is roughly 200 cubic kilometers per year. This is on the order of 0.1% by volume over 12 years. Numerous glaciers have retreated over the last decade, capturing the attention of scientists, policymakers and the general public. Because of this retreat, many glaciers are now flowing faster and terrain previously ice-covered is emerging along the coast - but not at the rate suggested in The Times media release.


Yours faithfully,

Dr. Poul Christoffersen

Prof. Julian Dowdeswell (Director)

Mr. Toby Benham

Prof. Elizabeth M Morris

Dr. Ruth Mugford

Dr. Steven Palmer

Dr. Ian Willis

(Scott Polar Research Institute)

Next page: Map of Greenland from the new Times Atlas vs. satellite imagery from 2011.


On 16 Sep 2011, at 21:23, Wal, R.S.W. van de (roderik) wrote:

> Dear Poul,
> The letter from Liz et al. to the times on the 15% error did not get through via cryolist at least not with me, can you forward it, or distribute it via cryolist so that we can see whether we can use the arguments in the dutch media as well. They use the somewhat modest Reuters news link...
> regards,
> Roderik

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