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New Times Atlas ‘Must Be Pulped’ Over Global Warming Exaggeration Row

The latest edition of the world’s most prestigious atlas should be pulped because it exaggerates climate change, scientists said yesterday.

The £150 Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World has changed a large coastal area of Greenland from white to green, suggesting an extreme acceleration of the melting of the northern ice cap.

After a group of eminent Cambridge scientists wrote a letter condemning the change, the publishers admitted that they had overestimated the extent of the ice loss in publicity material accompanying the launch of the new atlas.

But they defended the accuracy of the map – and yesterday the scientists accused them of making basic ‘GCSE errors’.

Dr Ian Willis, of Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute, said they ‘utterly disputed’ that the Greenland map was correct and highlighted a list of blunders.

And Dr Jeffrey Kargel, a hydrologist at the University of Arizona in the U.S., said: ‘They made a big mistake and what they should do is pull that edition and reprint it.

‘Do they really want people to have an atlas for the next 12 years that has an inaccurate map of Greenland? This is not just any atlas, it has built its reputation on being the most accurate in the world, and while I am pleased they partially acknowledge this error, it needs to be corrected now or the damage will just continue.’

In the map, the small numbers indicating altitude levels – known as spot heights – are also wrong because the contours drawn actually indicate thickness.

Dr Willis, a glaciologist, said: ‘One of the first things that geographers learn at GCSE is that contours of surface elevation cannot cross one another. That should have set the alarm bells ringing.

Authoritative: But scientists are calling for the atlas to be pulped

‘There’s a discrepancy, they are not comparing like with like, and if I was a primary school teacher giving out a project on Greenland I would refer my students to Google Earth rather than the latest Times Atlas because it is wrong.

‘We think they should just come clean and make a bold statement that they have got this wrong.

‘They are doing a disservice to the art of cartography, to the reputation of their atlas, to scientists who are actually researching the real changes that are occurring in Greenland, and to the general public who need to know the truth about how climate change is impacting our ice masses worldwide.’

In publicity material for the new atlas, publishers HarperCollins said 15 per cent of the ice sheet around Greenland – an area the size of the UK and Ireland – had melted in 12 years and was now ‘ice-free’.

Last week staff from the Scott Polar Institute wrote to them saying the map was ‘incorrect and misleading’ and that the true rate of ice loss was less than 0.1 per cent.

They added: ‘We compared recent satellite images of Greenland with the new map and found that there are in fact numerous glaciers and permanent ice cover where the new Times Atlas shows ice-free conditions and the emergence of new lands.’

Following hours of crisis meetings at HarperCollins, a spokesman admitted the ‘ice-free’ areas could in fact be covered by ice up to a quarter of a mile thick.

But she insisted they had used the ‘best data’ available. She said: ‘In compiling the content of the atlas, we consult experts in order to depict the world as accurately as possible.

‘For the launch of the latest edition we issued a press release which unfortunately has been misleading with regard to the Greenland statistics.

‘The conclusion that 15 per cent of Greenland’s once permanent ice cover has had to be erased was highlighted in the press release not in the atlas itself.

‘This was done without consulting the scientific community and was incorrect. We apologise and will seek the advice of scientists on any future public statements. We stand by the accuracy of the maps in this and all other editions of the Times Atlas.’

Daily Mail, 21 September 2011