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Times Atlas Makes ‘Absurd’ Claims About Shrinking Of Greenland Ice Sheet

A new map of the world that indicates a huge chunk of the Greenland icesheet has melted due to climate change has been criticised as “ludicrous” by leading polar scientists. The latest edition of the Times Atlas of the World claimed 15 per cent of Greenland’s former ice-covered land has turned “ice-free” in the last 12 years. But scientists from 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.

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.”

The Daily Telegraph, 19 September 2011