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Reporting and commentary from OnEarth editors and correspondents
As a PhD student researching glaciology, I feel that I really must point out on behalf of the cryosphere community that the 15% loss of permanent Greenland ice cover claimed by this new edition of the Times Atlas is very much a false statement. I would direct readers of this article to a letter composed by academics at the Scott Polar Research Institute addressing this mistake http://people.uleth.ca/~sarah.boon/DATA/Times-letter.pdf While myself and other glaciologists certainly do not disagree that the Greenland Ice Sheet responds to changes in climate, or indeed that it is losing mass, I do not believe that misinformation such as that quoted in the Time Atlas contributes towards clear communication of science to the public and policy makers.
Hi Caroline, Thanks so much for your note. This is a really interesting development, and I'm following up with both the Times Atlas publishers and the Scott Polar Research Institute people, and the from the NSIDC, where the Times Atlas publishers got their info. I will follow up with more info! Thanks enormously for your note. -Ben
Hi Ben, thanks for picking up on this and acting on it. As a research community we are very much hoping that this mistake can be corrected to avoid further confusion in the public sphere. Best wishes.
The Greenland map in question is certainly not accurate, and we very much look forward to Harper Collins producing a new map in collaboration with Greenland-specialised glaciologists. Managing director of Collins Geo spoke on the Today programme yesterday, but still didn't 'admit' that the original map is wrong: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9597000/9597252.stm What worries me most about this is that public perception of the scientists will be damaged from this series of events, rather than their perception of Times Atlas. I have already seen message boards and blogs where we are described as "bickering scientists" and similar terms. As a community, via 'cryolist', many of us have been voicing our concerns and opinions over this Times Atlas matter, as we did over 'Himalayagate', and I must emphasise here that there is no "confusion" amongst our community regarding climate change. It is happening, we all agree on that. It does affect glaciers, ice caps, ice fields, ice sheets and sea ice around the world. What are all still learning about are the exact mechanisms controlling how glaciers respond to these changes in climate, so that our estimates of glacier mass balance and sea level change may improve more and more. Glaciology is a science. It grows and it changes as our knowledge expands and adapts. The peer-review process and critical discussion of each others work is an important part of this, and should not be confused with 'bickering'. The press has just reported new results from CERN that maybe hint towards the speed of light not being the ultimate speed in the universe. Will these physicists be described as 'bickering scientists' as their community tries to discern the truth behind these potentially world-changing results? Or is this a term specially reserved for those of us working in glaciology and climate science? It's about time this perception is put to rest.
OK, now I'm confused. If the incorrect 15% value was based on the map in the Atlas, how can the publishers claim that the map is correct? I've read elsewhere that it seems plausible that the publishers based their most recent ice cover map on an NSIDC map that did not include glaciers. while their previous maps (correctly) did include glaciers as part of the ice cover. Thanks to Caroline Clason for your posts, which are clearer and seem much more likely to be correct than the Atlas' publishers' statements.