Denialists: Read About it here before you turn on Glenn Beck
September 20, 2011
Somebody Goofed at Harper Collins. I’m waiting for the stream of posts claiming that “Greenland was Green”, and that the Rothchild’s, the New World Order, the Club of Rome, and Al Gore are behind this.
Remember, I’m here to help.
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.
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 in The Times Atlas. The 15% retreat, SPRI glaciologists have worked out, is 150 times the amount of ice loss that has actually occurred.
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.