[CRYOLIST] Fwd: Re: Greenland story - coverage report

dalford8 at aol.com dalford8 at aol.com
Thu Sep 29 05:28:53 PDT 2011







I may be missing the point.  As I understand it, the IPCC 2007error was traced  to a glaciologist responding to an interview in 1999.  The Times Atlas problem seems to be, at least in part,  the result of ambiguous information from the National Snow and Ice Data Center website at the University of Colorado. There was journalistic overkill in both cases, but both initial sources would seem to be members of the "scientific community".  I think it has been good to hold the Times Atlas feet to the fire, but there should also be some attention given to tightening up the professional standards of glaciological material contained on websites, general publications and interviews, and of the scientists who put the information there in the first place.  When I was an undergraduate, just before graduation, a flyer appeared on campus tacked to bulletin boards on campus, with a cartoon of an Alfred E. Newman-looking student, and the caption, "Six munts ago I cudn't spel hydrolojist, and now I are one".  One wonders if the current media fascination with glaciers may have produced a similar situation among some claiming ice physics as a profession?


Don Alford.  






-----Original Message-----
From: Luisa Cristini <luisa.cristini at zmaw.de>
To: cryolist <cryolist at lists.cryolist.org>
Sent: Wed, Sep 28, 2011 8:36 am
Subject: Re: [CRYOLIST] Fwd: Re:  Greenland story - coverage report


It's funny that they say they "are now urgently reviewing the depiction of ice in the Atlas against all the current research and data available, and will work with the scientific community to produce a map of Greenland which reflects all the latest data." when they are supposed to do it as a rule in creating their world maps.
Luisa


On 20 Sep 2011, at 03:44, Sarah Boon wrote:


 Cryolisters - Seems the Times Atlas has decided they might want to consult scientists when creating future editions. However, they make no comments regarding the accuracy of their 15% figure. See this link.
Sarah

-- 
Sarah Boon, PhD
Assistant Professor, Geography
Alberta Water and Environmental Science Building
University of Lethbridge
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Fax. 403-332-4039
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-------- Original Message --------

Subject:
Re: [CRYOLIST] Greenland story - coverage report

Date:
Tue, 20 Sep 2011 12:55:36 +0000

From:
Jeffrey Kargel <jeffreyskargel at hotmail.com>

To:
<tom at sciencemediacentre.org>, <pc350 at cam.ac.uk>, Graham Cogley <gcogley1 at cogeco.ca>

CC:
gm349 at admin.cam.ac.uk, cryolist at cryolist.org, all at sciencemediacentre.org




Tom,


Wow.  Okay, thanks.  Of course I'd much rather to not have had to deal with this story because there had been no mistake, but given that there was, I am quite pleased that we--and not just our little group, but in fact a significant segment of the cryosphere community-- was proactive in correcting this error. Looks like one of the reports has the Times Atlas starting to think maybe they messed up. (maybe?!!!!!).  I am pleased especially that Ted Scambos so effectively identified what may be the cause of the Atlas error (misinterpretation of a map that showed something important but not what the Atlas interpreted it to be).


By all means, add my name to a list of glaciology ghostbusters that you keep on file.  I'd rather keep my guns cool til a big story hits.  I would like to introduce you to one of my colleagues, Jim Torson, who I used to work with at the USGS (until I resigned in 2005 a protest in support of the IPCC and in objection to a USGS media office attempt to prevent me from citing IPCC-published climate modeling in a press release).  Jim already, single handedly, is performing a lot of the type of duties that apparently you are involved with doing.  I could see him as being part of a U.S. SMC. I have no idea how you go about getting funded, or if you have funding.  I have long admired Jim for his tireless work.  In this case, I don't know who was first to contact me about the Atlas; Graham and Jim were each on it within minutes of each other.


--Jeff Kargel










From: tom at sciencemediacentre.org
Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2011 11:38:05 +0100
Subject: Greenland story - coverage report
To: pc350 at cam.ac.uk; jeffreyskargel at hotmail.com; gcogley1 at cogeco.ca
CC: gm349 at admin.cam.ac.uk; emm36 at cam.ac.uk; all at sciencemediacentre.org


Dear Poul, Jeff and Graham,
Below is our coverage report for the Greenland articles in which you were quoted.  There is a lot of it!  There was always the risk that this would draw attention to ‘another climate error’, but all errors should be corrected regardless of which political hand it appears to play into.  Meeting this head-on was not only brave and principled, but ensured that the press led with ‘scientists correct map-making error’ when they could quite easily otherwise have run with ‘NSIC data found to be dodgy in new climate shame’ etc.
As is often the case, there was no ‘no risk’ option.  If you had said nothing, the scientific community would have been accused by sceptic groups of complaining when climate change is underplayed, but staying conveniently silent when it’s overplayed – I think that would be improper, and much riskier!  The best thing scientists can do is be seen to be consistent, honest and truthful.  Your quotes also ensured prominent reporting of the fact that climate change remains serious and real, whatever the Times Atlas maps say.
So let me say how impressed I am that you all contributed so quickly and enthusiastically, especially as 24 hours ago we didn’t even know each other!  The whole aim of the Science Media Centre here in the UK is to ensure accurate, responsible reporting of scientific issues and you have helped us to achieve that today.  There is no SMC in the US (yet) but there is one recently established in Canada – Graham, ask me if you want to know more.  SMC Canada have made your quotes available to Canadian press.
I doubt we’ve seen the last of this issue, and I would very much like to keep in touch with you all – please let me know if I may add your details to our database for polar/glaciology stories in the future, or if this one needs any more input.  In the lead-up to Durban I will be putting together a number of climate-related press briefings, including one on ‘the state of the poles’ or something like that – Poul, perhaps we could talk more about your possible involvement in such a briefing.
A huge thanks again and best wishes to you all – I hope you're pleased with the coverage, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. 
Tom


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Tom Sheldon
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Expert reaction to Times Atlas publication showing Greenland to have lost 15% of its ice cover
19 September 2011
 
Round-up comments
Dr Jeffrey S. Kargel, Senior Research Scientist at the University of Arizona, said:
“The Times Atlas maps have been publicised in the media far and wide.  But make no mistake: this is not what is happening, this is not science, and this is not what scientists are saying.  Greenland specialists have documented what is actually happening in Greenland, and it involves some incredibly rapid changes, mainly increasing melting, thinning, and retreat; and slight thickening in some sectors, but overall Greenland is a story of massive, rapid retreat.  Special dynamics are at play, and probably climate warming as well.
“However, these new maps are ridiculously off base, way exaggerated relative to the reality of rapid change in Greenland.  I don't know how exactly the Times Atlas produced their results, but they are NOT scientific results. 
“Just like IPCCs '2035' (one key, massively wrong paragraph), a number like 15% ice loss used for advertising the book is simply a killer mistake that cannot be winked away.  Worse for science, this is not a scientific error, but it could be perceived as one once it is corrected - unless scientists make it clear that this is errant and not of science origin right from the outset.”
 

Prof J. Graham Cogley, Professor of Geography at Trent University, Ontario, Canada, said:
“Fortunately the mistake about the Greenland Ice Sheet is much more obvious and indefensible than the Himalayan error.  In the aftermath of ‘Himalayagate’, we glaciologists are hypersensitive to egregious errors in supposedly authoritative sources.  Climate change is real, and Greenland ice cover is shrinking.  But the claims here are simply not backed up by science.  This pig can’t fly.
“There are various ways to quantify the scale of the mistake. For example the global average rate of glacier shrinkage is somewhere near to 0.2% per year, but that number is heavily influenced by very small glaciers. Glacier shrinkage on the global scale is difficult to grapple with, but one clear conclusion is that smaller glaciers shrink much faster (in percentage terms) than bigger ones. The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second biggest glacier of all, and the Times Atlas’ contention that it has lost 300,000 sq km in the past 12 years, that is, at a rate of 1.5%/yr (because its nominal area is 1.7 million sq km), would be very surprising indeed if it could be validated. The best measurements in Greenland, which cover only part of the ice sheet, suggest that 1.5%/yr is at least 10 times faster than reality. It could easily be 20 times too fast and might well be 50 times too fast.
“In fact, what may have happened is that somebody, somewhere, has examined a satellite image and has mistaken the snowline for the ice margin. Snow is much brighter than bare ground, but it is also a good deal brighter than bare ice, of which there is quite a lot in summer around the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet.”
 
Dr Poul Christoffersen, Glaciologist at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI), University of Cambridge, said:
“A recent media release accompanying the publication of the 13th edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World stated that the Atlas is ‘turning Greenland ‘green’.  Scientists from the Scott Polar Research Institute were 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’.  At the SPRI we believe that the figure of a 15% decrease in permanent ice cover since the publication of the previous atlas 12 years is both incorrect and misleading.
“We compared recent satellite images of Greenland with the new map and found 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.  We concluded that a sizable portion of the area mapped as ice-free in the Atlas is clearly still ice-covered.
“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.
“A close inspection of the new map of Greenland shows that elevation contours are noticeably different to the contours in a older map.  My colleague Toby Benham, a scientist at the Scott Polar Research Institute, was able to reproduce these contours using ice thickness data.  It appears that the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World may have used 500m ice thickness to map the ice sheet margin.  If so, it is obviously an incorrect and flawed procedure. 
“The volume of ice contained in the Greenland Ice Sheet is approximately 2.9 million cubic kilometres and the current rate whereby ice is lost is roughly 200 cubic kilometres 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 Atlas media release.”
 

Coverage
BBC News – quotes Kargel, Cogley
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14983410
 

Daily Mail – quotes Kargel, Cogley, Christoffersen
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2039262/Times-Atlas-error-exaggerates-ice-retreat-Greenland.html
 

Mail Online – quotes Kargel, Cogley, Christoffersen
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2039455/Atlasgate-learn.html
 

Telegraph – quotes Cogley
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8774623/Times-Atlas-accused-of-absurd-climate-change-ice-error.html
 

Reuters – quotes Kargel, Cogley, Christoffersen
http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/09/20/idINIndia-59432720110920
 

Guardian - quotes Kargel
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/sep/19/times-atlas-wrong-greenland-climate-change
 

Mirror – quotes Cogley, Christoffersen
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/09/20/row-over-how-much-greenland-has-shrunk-115875-23432761/
 

Independent - quotes Christoffersen
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/mapmakers-claim-on-shape-of-greenland-suddenly-melts-away-2357516.html
 

Science AAAS – quotes Cogley
http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/09/atlas-shrugged-outraged-glaciologists.html
 

Clips
BBC News - quotes Kargel and Cogley
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14983410
 

20 September 2011 Last updated at 10:11
Richard Black Environment correspondent
Greenland ice: Are the Times a-changing?
<mime-attachment.jpeg>The Times Atlas map (left); a map it may have been based on showing only the thickness of the central portion of the ice sheet (centre); ice extent seen from space (right)
The part of News Corporation that makes Times Atlases is currently taking the same kind of kicking from scientists that some of its newspapers took from the general public over phone-hacking.
What it's being kicked for is for claiming, in the edition that came out last week, that the Greenland ice sheet has shrunk by 15% over 12 years, necessitating the re-drawing of its boundaries.
Few books receive as much publicity as the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World. 
OK, a new JK Rowling or an undiscovered Wilde might get more - but still, the atlas put up an impressive showing last week, with articles in a lot of major newspapers and executives interviewed on rolling news channels. 
And top of the agenda in all of the output I saw was the 15% claim. 
The problem is, it's not true; and glaciologists have been queuing up to say why not.

'Killer mistake'
"In the aftermath of 'Himalayagate', we glaciologists are hypersensitive to egregious errors in supposedly authoritative sources," said Graham Cogley from Trent University in Canada.
"Climate change is real, and Greenland ice cover is shrinking. But the claims here are simply not backed up by science; this pig can't fly."
As Professor Cogley was the scientist who raised the alarm over "Himalayagate" - the erroneous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contention that Himalayan glaciers could largely melt away by 2035 - he is well placed to make the comparison.
Jeffrey Kargel from the University of Arizona, principal scientist on the GLIMS project that's trying to improve mapping of ice and glaciers from space, was even more scathing.

<mime-attachment.jpeg>Greenland's ice is melting, but not at the rate suggested by the Times Atlas
"These new maps are ridiculously off base, way exaggerated relative to the reality of rapid change in Greenland," he fumed.
"I don't know how exactly the Times Atlas produced their results, but they are NOT scientific results. 
"Just like IPCC's '2035', a number like 15% ice loss used for advertising the book is simply a killer mistake that cannot be winked away."
All this is in addition to the letter from the Scott Polar Research Institute letter, which I reported on Monday, that concluded: "There is to our knowledge no support for this [15%] claim in the published scientific literature." 
Precisely how the Times Atlas team reached its conclusion is not entirely clear.
In a statement issued on Monday, and in a phone call thereafter to Sheena Barclay, MD of the HarperCollins imprint Collins Geo which publishes the atlas, it emerged that the map-makers somehow got the figure from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
This Colorado-based institute is one of the world's most respected in terms of polar science. 
But how did the NSIDC's data add up to 15%?

True values
I called up Ted Scambos, one of the researchers there with whom I've talked regularly down the years, and found that the Times figures were something of a mystery to him and his colleagues.
At the time of writing (Monday evening UK time, early afternoon in Colorado), their prevailing theory was that the figure may have been derived from a map published in the Atlas of the Cryosphere, an online resource that NSIDC maintains.

<mime-attachment.jpeg>The IPCC eventually backed down on its claims
If this was the source, it was a big mistake, according to Dr Scambos.
"This was intended to be a map of the thickness of the central portion of the ice sheet - not the peripheral glaciers and... not intended as a definitive outline of the ice sheet," he told me.
"The Atlas of the Cryosphere is intended to be a public resource, a quick-look resource, and not a definitive statement."
When I asked whether a phone call to NSIDC could have cleared up any confusion, he said: "There are probably 1,000 people they could have called that would have been able to steer them clear of the 15% number... anybody working in glaciology, any graduate students working in glaciology, could have steered them clear."
The real proportion of ice sheet area lost over the last 12 years is more like 0.05%, he said.
The Times Atlas may have intended to highlight dramatic changes to the world taking place as a result of warming. But Ted Scambos (and he is not alone) is rather concerned that this episode could have the opposite effect.
"I'm worried that the importance of the changes that are going on will be lost on the public, because the true value of what the ice sheet has lost compared to this 15% number sounds very small.
"Yet if you look at the coastline, if you make measurements along some of these outlet glaciers, you see stunning levels of change - they're losing elevation very rapidly, on the scale of tens of metres, some of them."
Hence all the fears about sea level rise measured in metres as a result of the sheet melting - not next week, not next year, not in the next decade; but possibly irreversible once a threshold of warming has been exceeded.

'Melted away'
Whether a mis-interpretation of the NSIDC map is exactly what happened will presumably be clarified at some point; in the meanwhile, the Daily Mail's Michael Hanlonhas blogged an account of a longer conversation he had with Collins Geo's Ms Barclay, which sheds a bit more light on the matter.
We should also see the company clarify at some point where it intends to go next. It took the IPCC several weeks to own up to the Himalayan error; but own up it eventually did, and embarked on the process of formally amending its report.
Will HarperCollins do likewise?
It has already - for what reason, I do not speculate - sown a little disinformation through a claim about its original claim that does not stand up to scrutiny.
"While global warming has played a role in this [15%] reduction, it is also as a result of the much more accurate data and in-depth research that is now available," the company said on Monday - adding: "Read as a whole, both the press release and the 13th edition of the Atlas make this clear".
Here, I have to admit that I have not read every word on every one of the atlas's pages, so I might have missed something.
But press releases are intended, partially, to condense what's in the thing they're publicising - and often, owing to time pressures, they are all journalists will read.
For t0068e record, here are the glossy document's opening words:
"For the first time, the new edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, published on 15 September, 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. 
"This is concrete evidence of how climate change is altering the face of the planet forever - and doing so at an alarming rate.
"Cartographers of the atlas have sourced the latest evidence and referred to detailed maps and records to confirm that in the last 12 years, 15% of the permanent ice cover (around 300,000 sq km) of Greenland, the world's largest island, has melted away."
No mention there of the 15% figure being partially "a result of the much more accurate data and in-depth research that is now available".

 

Daily Mail – quotes Kargel, Cogley, Christoffersen
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2039262/Times-Atlas-error-exaggerates-ice-retreat-Greenland.html
 

A greener Greenland? Times Atlas 'error' overstates global warming
By Tamara Cohen
Last updated at 9:33 AM on 20th September 2011
The publishers of the world’s most prestigious atlas have been caught out by Cambridge scientists exaggerating the effects of climate change.
In its latest edition, the £150 Times Atlas of the World has changed a huge coastal area of Greenland from white to green, suggesting an alarming acceleration of the melting of the northern ice cap.
Accompanying publicity material declared the change reflected ‘concrete evidence’ that 15 per cent of the ice sheet around the island – an area the size of the United Kingdom – had melted since 1999.
But last night the atlas’s publishers admitted that the ‘ice-free’ areas could in fact still be covered by sheets of more than a quarter of a mile thick.

<mime-attachment.jpeg>
It 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 of ice had no basis in science and was contradicted by recent satellite images. 

<mime-attachment.jpeg>
Glaciologist Dr Poul Christoffersen of the Scott Institute says the figure is misleading
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.
Publicity for the new atlas read: ‘For the first time the new edition has had to erase 15 per cent of Greenland’s once permanent ice cover – turning an area the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland “green” and ice-free.
‘This is concrete evidence of how climate change is altering the face of the planet for ever – and doing so at an alarming and accelerating rate.’
The seven Cambridge scientists who signed the letter are closely involved with research into changes in the Greenland ice shelf.
They do not dispute that some glaciers have got smaller but say the overall picture presented is wrong.
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.
‘We compared recent satellite images of Greenland with the new map and found 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.
‘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.’
If the Times Atlas calculations were correct, the ice sheet would have been shrinking at a rate of 1.5 per cent per year since 1999.
The Cambridge scientists measure ice loss in volume, not area, and say it has actually decreased by 0.1 per cent in the past 12 years.
<mime-attachment.jpeg>

Cold facts: The ice cover in the Polar regions are crucial indicators of global climate change
Graham Cogley, professor of geography at Trent University in Canada, said: ‘Climate change is real and Greenland ice cover is shrinking but the claims here are simply not backed up by science. This pig can’t fly. 
‘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.’
Dr Jeffrey Kargel, a hydrologist at the University of Arizona, said it was ‘a killer mistake that cannot be winked away’.
The Times Atlas, which claims to be the ‘most authoritative’, first came out in 1895. It is not owned by The Times newspaper but is published by HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corporation.
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.’
She said the data was provided by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado. Its lead scientist Dr Ted Scambos said it appeared the atlas had used a map from the Centre’s website which showed ‘ice thickness’ not the extent of the ice edge.
He added that the Centre  had never been contacted by the atlas’s cartographers. 
He said: ‘That map would not be appropriate and there are many small glaciers and ice domes around the perimeter of Greenland that should have been included in the permanent ice sheet.
‘We are very surprised by the mistake because lots of people – in the U.S., Europe, Cambridge – could have steered the atlas away from this high-profile statement as ice in Greenland is fairly well mapped and the melting is nowhere near this level. 
‘Was it a mistake? I can only speculate that the people promoting the map were thinking differently from the cartographers.
‘The problem is that people may think that because the melting is so much less than 15 per cent it is not something to worry about – but it is. Part of the mission of the sceptic community is to throw wrench and create confusion, when in fact there is a lot of understanding in this area.’
 

Mail Online – quotes Kargel, Cogley, Christoffersen
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2039455/Atlasgate-learn.html
 

Atlasgate: new map exaggerates climate change
By Michael Hanlon
Will they never learn? Has the penny not yet dropped? 
If you want the public to be informed and concerned about climate change never, ever exaggerate. 
Otherwise the sceptics will have a field day saying the whole thing is a load of scare-mongering conspiratorial nonsense. 

<mime-attachment.jpeg>
An animated projection, showing the different acidity of the ocean at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, has this new Atlas undone much of the good work in raising awareness of climate change?
Which, as I will say again and again, it isn’t.
So far we’ve had ‘emailgate’ (in which a series of emails from the University of East Anglia were leaked, some of which showed a degree of laxness about how data had been used and conveyed to journals), and ‘glaciergate’, in which the rate of melting of some Himalayan glaciers was ludicrously exaggerated in a United Nations report.
Now we’ve got what will, with weary inevitably, be known as Atlasgate. 
Yesterday, a copy of the new, 13th Edition of the Times Atlas of the World thundered onto my desk. 

<mime-attachment.jpeg>
The publishers¿ blurb says, they have had to ¿erase 15% of Greenland¿s once-permanent ice-cover¿, an area the size of the United Kingdom.
The £150 tome is huge, heavy and very impressive, with hundreds of finely detailed maps printed on expensive paper showing the remotest jungles and wildest mountain peaks. 
It is a thing of beauty. It projects huge authority.
It is also wrong.
And not just randomly wrong, but politically wrong. 
At the top of its press release, the publisher claims that the cartographers have had to completely redraw the map of Greenland, turning formerly white, ice-covered ground into ‘ ‘green’ and ice-free’ land. (hold on to that phrase, it is important).
For the first time, the publishers’ blurb says, they have had to ‘erase 15% of Greenland’s once-permanent ice-cover’, an area the size of the United Kingdom.
A great story. 
The world’s most comprehensive atlas, bearing the imprimatur of the self-proclaimed paper of record, showing dramatic, rapid and terrifying climate change in action. 
The trouble is, the map – and especially the claims made by Collins Bartholomew in its press release about the map – seems to be a work of fiction. 
This afternoon scientists have been queuing up to pour scorn on the claims, using words like ‘ridiculous’, ‘egregious’ and ‘misleading’.
Although Greenland’s ice IS melting (yes, it really is), glaciologists say it is doing so at nothing like the rate the atlas implies. 
Professor Graham Cogley, a glacier expert at the University of Toronto in Canada says that since Himalayagate ‘we glaciologists are hypersensitive to egregious errors in supposedly authoritative sources. Climate change is real and the ice cover is shrinking. But the claims here are simply not backed up by science. This pig can’t fly'.
Dr Poul Christoffersen, a glaciologist at the Scott Polar Rresearch Institute in Cambridge added that he and his colleagues are 'extremely puzzled' by the Times Atlas claims. 
They looked at recent satellite images and the new map and found that there are in fact still numerous glaciers and permanent ice-cover where the Times atlas shows ice-free conditions and the emergence of new lands.
It seems that the mapmakers have exaggerated, by a factor of at least 10, and maybe as much as 70, the rate of ice-melt in Greenland, reinforcing the popular misconception that the whole slab of frozen water is about to slide off into the Atlantic.
Jeffrey Kargel, of the University of Arizona weighed in emailing, 'these new maps are ridiculously off base, way exaggerated relative to the reality of rapid change in Greenland.  I don't know how exactly the Times Atlas produced their results, but they are NOT [his caps] scientific results.'
I spoke to Sheena Barclay, MD of Collins Bartholomew, the Atlas’s publisher. 
She defended the map, saying that the 15% shrinkage in ice-cover is real and refers to a comparison between the map shown in the current edition and that in the last edition, published in 1999.
The first problem is those words ‘green’ and ‘ice free’. According to Ms Barclay, ‘ice free’ refers to ground covered with less than 500 metres thick. 
So ‘green, ice-free land’ could refer to land covered with nearly third of a mile thickness of ice – thicker than the Empire State Building is high! I put it to Ms Barclay that this isn’t what most people would think of as ‘ice free’.
'Yes, I can see why you would see that as misleading' she admitted, after a very long pause. 
And ‘green’? To me (and I would guess everyone else) I think of bleak Greenlandic hillsides covered with grass or at least moss, perhaps a few grazing sheep.
It turns out ‘green’ refers just to the printing colour chosen by the cartographers to indicate low-altitude land, and not its colour at all.  Which is, er, white.
How did this happen? According to Ms Barclay at the scale of the Greenland map (1:12,500,000) only ice thicker than 500 metres is shown.
But this is patently not the case. On the same spread in the Atlas, at the same scale, small ice caps in both Iceland and British Columbia are also shown in white. 
I asked the scientists at the SPRI to confirm that these ice caps were much thinner than 500 metres and they were able to do so.
It gets worse. The Greenlandic ice cap is marked with a series of contours at 500-metre intervals. 
But nowhere on the map, or in the Key at the beginning of the Atlas, is it made clear what these contours refer to. 
It cannot be altitude as many intersect with another set of contours which clearly DO show height above sea level.
These contours seem to be ice-thickness contours, produced from radar data. 
Fair enough, but this needs to be explained, which it is not, and it also needs to be explained why other ice-covered areas (including Antarctica, Iceland, Canada etc) are marked with elevation-contours not ice-thickness contours.
Worst of all, according to the SPRI, the publishers did not, as they are claiming, use the same method in 1999 – when even quite small mountain glaciers in Greenland were shown, properly, as ‘ice covered’.
Apologies for the technicalities, but cartography is a technical business and this is important. 
What seems to have happened – and I am happy to be corrected if wrong – is that a decision has been made to single out Greenland, as the poster-child of global warming, for special and unique cartographic treatment which has massively and deliberately exaggerated the extent of ice-cover loss. 
This makes a good story which will, they hoped, give the Atlas some publicity. 
But it has backfired, badly. Scientists who believe in climate change - and that means nearly all of them – are dismayed by what has happened. 
They know that the sceptics will have a field day with this. And they are right.
Cartography is not only technical it is hugely political.  
Map-makers have always exaggerated and emasculated, straightened out bent rivers, bent straight ones and redrawn boundaries at the behest of their political masters. 
The earliest European maps put Rome or Athens literally at the centre of the Earth. 
The Chinese world was centred on Peking, and London ruled well into the 20th century.  
The Mercator projection, which used to be on every schoolroom wall in Britain, massively exaggerates the area of the temperate and polar latitudes at the expense of equatorial lands. 
The Mercator has now fallen out of favour, to be replaced by ‘equal area’ projections that give places like Africa far more prominence. 
Neither projection is ‘wrong’, they just present the same information in different ways.
It is ironic that Greenland is at the centre of this particular cartographic storm because it was this frigid island that was the focus of a very early piece of politically correct geographical propaganda. 
A millennium ago the Viking chieftain and exile Erik the Red named the place thus, hoping that the pleasant name would attract settlers. 
It worked, and the Viking settlement limped on until a series of bitter summers in the 14th Century made farming impossible and the Norsemen starved.
Greenland wasn’t green then (as Erik knew perfectly well), and it isn’t green now. 
It might be one day, but not, probably, for centuries. 
Erik’s subterfuge took a long time to be rumbled but in the days of the Internet, Google Maps and satellite photos available in a second, it took no time at all for the Times Atlas to be caught out. 
They have been very, very silly.

 

Telegraph – quotes Cogley
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8774623/Times-Atlas-accused-of-absurd-climate-change-ice-error.html
Times Atlas accused of 'absurd' climate change ice error
A new atlas that shows that a large chunk of the Greenland ice sheet has melted due to climate change has been criticised as "ludicrous" by leading polar scientists.
<mime-attachment.jpeg>
Map of Greenland from the 13th edition of The Times Atlas of the World (left) and a mosaic of MODIS satellite images of the same area acquired on the 14th and 15th August 2011 
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
5:05PM BST 19 Sep 2011
The latest edition of the Times Atlas of the World claims 15 per cent of Greenland's former ice–covered land has turned "green and ice–free" in the past 12 years. 
But scientists at the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University say the figures are wrong, and that the ice has melted by less than one per cent during that time.Professor Liz Morris, a senior associate at the institute, said a “serious error” had been made. 
She said the cartographers appeared to have muddled satellite data on elevation with ice cover and assumed that below a certain level there was no ice. In fact the ice sheet carries on to the shore in many areas. 
She feared the “ludicrous claim” could be used as the latest tool to deny climate change, following similar exaggerations about the melting of the Himalayan ice glaciers. 
“We are not saying in any way that climate change and the loss of the ice sheet is not going on," she said. "The danger is if people quote these absurd figures the next thing that happens is climate change sceptics say scientists are making daft claims. We are not. It is the publicity people.” 
The 13th edition of the "comprehensive" version of the atlas included a number of revisions made for reasons of environmental change since the previous edition was published in 2007. 
The break-up of some Antarctic ice shelves due to climate change, the shrinking of inland waters such as the Dead and Aral Seas, and the drying up of rivers such as the Colorado River are all documented. 
Most strikingly, the publicity claimed that "for the first time, the new edition of the (atlas) has had to erase 15 per cent of Greenland's once permanent ice cover - turning an area the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland 'green' and ice-free. 
"This is concrete evidence of how climate change is altering the face of the planet forever - and doing so at an alarming and accelerating rate." 
Graham Cogley, Professor of Geography at Trent University, Ontario, Canada, said glacier shrinkage happens very slowly - at around 0.2 per cent a year - rather than the 1.5 per cent suggested by the Times Atlas. 
He explained this is still a serious threat to the planet. 
“Climate change is real, and Greenland ice cover is shrinking. But the claims here are simply not backed up by science. This pig can’t fly." 
The Times Atlas is not owned by The Times newspaper. It is published by Times Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, which is in turn owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. 
A spokesman for HarperCollins said its new map was based on information provided by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). 
The spokesman said: "Since The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World 10th Edition, in 1999, we have had to erase 15 per cent of Greenland’s once permanent ice sheet. 
"This is based on information provided by the much respected and widely-cited National Snow and Ice Data Center (Atlas of the Cryosphere, Boulder, Colorado USA). 
"While global warming has played a role in this reduction, it is also as a result of the much more accurate data and in-depth research that is now available. Read as a whole, both the press release and the 13th edition of the Atlas make this clear." 

 

Reuters – quotes Kargel, Cogley, Christoffersen
http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/09/20/idINIndia-59432720110920
 

World Atlas ice loss claim exaggerated - scientists
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By Nina Chestney
LONDON | Tue Sep 20, 2011 6:53am IST 
(Reuters) - The Times Atlas of the World exaggerated the rate of Greenland's ice loss in its thirteenth edition last week, scientists said on Monday.
The atlas, published by HarperCollins, showed that Greenland lost 15 percent of its ice cover over the past 12 years, based on information from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado in the United States.
The Greenland ice sheet is the second biggest in the world and significant shrinking could lead to a global rise in sea levels.
"While global warming has played a role in this reduction, it is also as a result of the much more accurate data and in-depth research that is now available," HarperCollins said on its website on Monday.
However, a number of scientists disputed the claim.
"We believe that the figure of a 15 percent decrease in permanent ice cover since the publication of the previous atlas 12 years (ago) is both incorrect and misleading," said Poul Christoffersen, glaciologist at the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) at the University of Cambridge.
"We concluded that a sizable portion of the area mapped as ice-free in the Atlas is clearly still ice-covered."
Other scientists agreed.
"These new maps are ridiculously off base, way exaggerated relative to the reality of rapid change in Greenland," said Jeffrey S. Kargel, senior research scientist at the University of Arizona.
The Times Atlas suggested the Greenland ice sheet has lost 300,000 square kilometres in the past 12 years, at a rate of 1.5 percent per year.
However, measurements suggest this rate is at least 10 times faster than in reality, added J. Graham Cogley, Professor of Geography at Trent University, Ontario, Canada.
"It could easily be 20 times too fast and might well be 50 times too fast," he added.
Last year, a U.N. committee of climate scientists came under fire for bungling a forecast of when Himalayan glaciers would thaw.
The panel's 2007 report, the main guide for governments in fighting climate change, included an incorrect projection that all Himalayan glaciers could vanish by 2035, hundreds of years earlier than scientists' projections.

 

Guardian - quotes Kargel
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/sep/19/times-atlas-wrong-greenland-climate-change
Times Atlas is 'wrong on Greenland climate change'
Glaciologists say the ice cover is melting – but at nowhere near the 'misleading' 15% rate represented by cartographers
John Vidal, environment editor
Monday 19 September 2011 17.07 BST
<mime-attachment.jpeg><mime-attachment.png>
The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World shows Greenland as having lost around 15% of its ice cover between the 1999 10th edition (left) and 2011 13th edition (right). Scientists argue the depiction is wrong. Photograph: Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World
Leading scientists have accused the world's top cartographers of making a blunder in their representation of the effects of climate change in Greenland, prompting a robust defence by the map-makers' publisher.
Maps in the 13th edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, published last week, show large areas of the eastern and southern coasts of Greenland coloured brown and pink, and the permanent ice cap now covering a significantly smaller area than it did in the 1999 12th edition of the atlas. The atlas shows that 300,000 sq km, or 15%, of Greenland's ice cover had been lost in the period.
"This is concrete evidence of how climate change is altering the face of the planet forever – and doing so at an alarming and accelerating rate," said the publishers of the atlas, HarperCollins, in information given to the media last week and reiterated by a spokeswoman on Monday.
But seven researchers at Cambridge University's Scott Polar Research Institute backed by glaciologists in the US, Europe and elsewhere, have said that both the maps and the figure of 15% are wrong.
In a letter to the editors of the Times Atlas they agree that the Greenland ice cover is reducing but at nowhere near the extent claimed in the book. "A 15% decrease in permanent ice cover since the publication of the previous atlas 12 years ago is both incorrect and misleading.
"Numerous glaciers have retreated over the last decade. 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. 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."
According to the researchers, the volume of ice contained in the Greenland ice sheet is approximately 2.9m cubic kilometres and the current rate whereby ice is lost is roughly 200 cubic kilometres per year – a decrease of about 0.1% by volume over 12 years.
Other researchers backed the Scott team. "Although many of these regions have decreased in area and thickness over the past decade(s), reported in many recent scientific papers, the misinterpretation of enormous losses of glacierised area from these maps is far off the range in measured losses," said Hester Jiskoot, a glaciologist at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.
"A number like 15% ice loss used for advertising the book is simply a killer mistake that cannot be winked away," said Jeffrey Kargel, a senior researcher at the University of Arizona.
Several researchers said the atlas's authors may have confused ice thickness with ice extent, defining the ice sheet margin at 500m high (the contour) and colouring brown and pink anything below 500m. "They [seem to] show the contour as ice thickness, colouring in everything white that is above 500m. They appear to have missed out the edge of the ice sheet," said Ian Willis, researcher at the Scott institute.
A spokeswoman for Times Atlas defended the 15% figure and the new map. "We are the best there is. We are confident of the data we have used and of the cartography. We use data supplied by the US Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. They use radar techniques to measure the permanent ice. We have compared the extent of the ice surface in 1999 with that of 2011. Our data shows that it has reduced by 15%. That's categorical," she said.
"You will always have a level of generalisation. But we have compared like with like. The same criteria were applied to the 1999 data to that of 2011.
"We are not saying that all of the ice loss is due to climate change. It is the lion's share but the data has improved over the period."
The NSIDC said it was investigating the claims made by the Times Atlas. The row echoes a 2010 flare-up, when the UN's climate science body admitted that a claim made in its 2007 report – that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 – was unfounded. The claim was not based on peer-reviewed scientific literature but a media interview with a scientist.

 

Mirror – quotes Cogley, Christoffersen
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/09/20/row-over-how-much-greenland-has-shrunk-115875-23432761/
Row over how much Greenland has shrunk
by Mike Swain, Daily Mirror 20/09/2011
Decrease font size Increase font size
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A COLD War has broken out between map-makers and polar scientists over Greenland’s permanent ice cover.
The latest edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World has reduced Greenland’s ice mass by 15%.
Map makers say “alarming and accelerating” climate change in the past 12 years has shrunk it by 116,000 square miles – about the size of the UK and Ireland.
But scientists at the Scott Polar Research Institute say the ice had melted on the world’s biggest island by 0.1% in that period.
The atlas claim has been compared to Himalayagate, a blunder when United Nations’ scientists said glaciers would disappear from the Himalayan mountain range by 2035.
But atlas editor Jethro Lennox said: “With every new edition of the atlas, we are giving people across the globe an up-to-date accurate and instant picture of the current state of the planet.”
The Scott Institute insisted the ice was not melting as it has been mapped. It said: “It is crucial to report climate change and its impact accurately and back bold statements with concrete and correct evidence.”
Institute glaciologist Dr Poul Christoffersen, of Cambridge University, said they found the Times Atlas 15% ice shrinkage “puzzling”. He put the loss “on the order of 0.1% by volume over 12 years”.
Prof J Graham Cogley, of Trent University, Ontario, Canada, said: “Fortunately the mistake about the Greenland ice sheet is much more obvious and indefensible than the Himalayan error.
“Climate change is real, and Greenland ice cover is shrinking. But the claims here are simply not backed up by science. This pig can’t fly.”

 

Independent - quotes Christoffersen
http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/mapmakers-claim-on-shape-of-greenland-suddenly-melts-away-2357516.html
 

Mapmakers' claim on shape of Greenland suddenly melts away
By Enjoli Liston
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
<mime-attachment.jpeg>
Solar Research Institute
Left, a map of Greenland from the new edition of The Times Atlas of the World and, right, a mosaic of satellite images of the same area taken on August 14-15
Prominent polar scientists have said there is "no support" for potentially "damaging" claims, made by The Times Atlas of the World last week, that Greenland's ice cover has shrunk by 15 per cent over the past 12 years as a result of global warming.
The publisher Harper Collins made international headlines when it declared that the new edition of its "comprehensive" atlas, which claims to be the "most authoritative" in the world, had been forced to depict an area the size of the UK and Ireland, previously part of Greenland's permanent ice sheet, as "green and ice-free" due to climate change.
According to promotional material for the 13th edition of the atlas, this provides "concrete evidence of how climate change is altering the face of the planet for ever – and doing so at an alarming and accelerating rate."
However, scientists at the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, which investigates climate change in the Arctic and is headed by the revered glaciologist Julian Dowdeswell, have asserted that the publisher's claims are flawed.
"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," the Institute said in a letter to Harper Collins, made public yesterday.
"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."
Dr Poul Christoffersen, the first signatory to the letter, told The Independent he believed the "inaccurate map" could be damaging to the credibility of the climate change campaign.
"When things are so obviously incorrect then we are obliged, as scientists, to bring this to the public's attention," he said.
Harper Collins yesterday stood by the atlas's contentious depiction of Greenland, and said its assertions were based on "information provided by the much respected and widely-cited" US National Snow and Ice Data Centre.
 

Science AAAS – quotes Cogley
http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/09/atlas-shrugged-outraged-glaciologists.html
UPDATED: Atlas Shrugged? 'Outraged' Glaciologists Say Mappers Misrepresented Greenland Ice Melt
by Sara Reardon on 19 September 2011, 12:00 PM |

Sketchy data.                The Times Atlas                (left) shows 15% more glacier melt                than scientists believe. A map drawn up by SPRI                scientists (right) suggests that the                map was erroneously based on ice                thickness
Credit: (left) The Times" target="_blank"<mime-attachment.jpeg>
Sketchy data. The Times Atlas (left) shows 15% more glacier melt than scientists believe. A map drawn up by SPRI scientists (right) suggests that the map was erroneously based on ice thickness
Credit: (left) The Times Atlas of the World; (right) Toby Benham
CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM—So much for claims that climate scientists deliberately misrepresent their data: glaciologists are broadly and loudly panning the latest version of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, released last week, which shows Greenland having lost 15% of its ice cover in the past 12 years due to warming, turning an area the size of the United Kingdom and Ireland "green." The atlas is published by HarperCollins on behalf of London's The Times newspaper. 
The trouble, researchers say, is that although Greenland's ice sheet is retreating, the melt is nothing like the scale shown in the atlas and they are mystified at where the error arose. In a letter sent to HarperCollins on Friday evening, researchers at the Cambridge-based Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) quickly attempted to set the record straight. "A sizable portion of the area mapped as ice-free in the Atlas is clearly still ice-covered," they wrote. "There is to our knowledge no support for this claim in the published scientific literature." 
"It's a really bad mapping error," glaciologist Liz Morris of SPRI told ScienceInsider. If 15% of ice was lost, then sea levels would have risen by 1 meter. "That obviously hasn't happened," she says. "Most people with a science background would have spotted something wrong." While satellite images show that ice in Greenland is certainly retreating in a way that is "very interesting and dramatic," those retreat patterns are far too small to show in a map the resolution of the one inThe Times Atlas. The 15% retreat, SPRI glaciologists have worked out, is 150 times the amount of ice loss that has actually occurred. 
On the glaciology listserv Cryolist, experts have been trying to work out the source of the error. Their best guess so far is that the cartographers were measuring ice thickness, rather than the actual height of ice. As ice sheets are thinner where submerged mountains exist, that would explain why the shape of the ice sheet is "bizarre," Morris says. 
Another possibility is that from the air, ice sheets appear dark and are difficult to distinguish from the ground, whereas snow gives off a glare, says geographer Graham Cogley at the Trent University in Canada. The extent of the error, he says, "sticks out like a sore thumb." The global average of glacier melt is about 0.2% per year, and that includes very small glaciers, which melt more quickly than the massive Greenland ice sheet. A 1.5% per year decrease in ice cover, he says, is "so implausible" that any glaciologist would spot it. 
Cogley compares this mistake to a case where scientists were reported as predicting in 1999 that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, rather than 2350. This error was propagated through the popular science press and made its way into an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2007. Cogley tracked down its source in 2009 and the IPCC quickly retracted that part of its report—not, however, before climate change skeptics had publicized the error. 
Morris says that scientists are worried about skeptics picking up this error too as evidence of scientists exaggerating the effects of global warming. "This was an error on the part of a mapper, not a glaciologist, and was compounded by the publicity department. As soon as scientists saw this, there was absolute outrage," she says. 
The letter to The Times read: "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." 
"It's fair to say that The Times book is the most authoritative," says Cogley "That's why it's such a pity they've blundered on this point. …. I hope they're busily trying to figure out where they went wrong." 
A spokesperson for HarperCollins, told the BBC that the data came from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), adding that the 15% retreat since the 10th edition of the atlas was released in 1999 is a result of global warming and "much more accurate data." 
Cogley worries about that statement, and says the atlas data is definitely not accurate. "They might be about to make the mistake IPCC didn't … and tough it out" rather than publishing a retraction, he says. "That pig won't fly." 
"We're really nervous about this one; it's such a stupid mistake," says Morris. "But people can say scientists say [this], and it's just not true." 
UPDATE, 2:25 p.m.: 
Ted Scambos, lead scientist for NSIDC's science team in Boulder, Colorado, says that researchers have tracked down the probable source of the error: a map NSIDC published in 2001 that showed the extent of Greenland's central, thickest ice sheet. It does not, however, show any of the peripheral glaciers. This map, he says, stands on its own, but the atlas cartographers most likely took it out of context. 
"It's unfortunate NSIDC wasn't contacted," he says. "Folks here respond quickly; not only could NSIDC have helped, but any number of groups could instantly have known" that something was wrong. Now glaciologists are left trying to figure out how not to understate the importance of the extent glacial ice melt, while at the same time correcting the error.
Sheena Barclay, managing director of Collins Bartholomew, which publishes The Times Atlas, says that she is waiting to hear back from The Times Atlas' editor, Jethro Lennox, but told ScienceInsider that it would be "unlike us not to speak to [the scientists at NSIDC] and corroborate" the findings. But the publisher is standing by the 15% number, which she says comes from comparing "like to like" data between 1999 and 2011, and accounting for more accurate methods during that time. The atlas' introduction, she says, explains the issue of ice cap melt and highlights that more research needs to be done. 

 

 


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