Complaints over false info in new Times World Atlas grow

Yesterday we pointed out how an island shown on a map 50 years ago was cited (because it appears today and was finally given a name) as “proof” of Greenland ice melt. Now some heavy hitters are weighing in saying that the new Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, has significant portions of its climate change and Greenland section all wrong. The Danish Meteorological Institute is now panning the atlas, and Richard Betts, who wrote sections of the atlas, is now complaining about misrepresentation by the Guardian. Atlasgate anyone?

From DMI (via Google Translate h/t Tom Nelson): Times Atlas represents the ice cap is too small

“There is no scientific evidence that the area of the Greenland ice sheet since 1999 has shrunk by 15% as the latest edition of the ‘Times Atlas shows,” says climate researcher Ruth Mottram, DMI.

In the latest edition of the British ‘Times Atlas’ is the area of Greenland’s ice sheet decreased by 15% during the period from 1999 to 2011. It must reflect the effects of global warming. But there is no scientific evidence for the claim that is overrated and not based on robust measurements.

‘Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World’ was first published in 1899 and is the standard reference atlas in large parts of the world.

The marked difference between the two ‘Times atlas’-map of Greenland for 1999 and 2011 is that the coastline especially on the east side is no longer covered by ice. The true picture is another.

Dirty ice covered in some places of newly fallen snow on the east coast of Greenland near Mestersvig at Kong Oscars Fjord. Photo: Michele Citterio. Copyright GEUS.

The error may have occurred if katograferne from the ‘Times Atlas have used satellite images of Greenland to assess ice spatial distribution.

“When I look at satellite images of Greenland, it looks real enough dark along the coast, but that does not mean that the ice has disappeared” says climate researcher and continues: “The dark color is caused by dirt, dust and volcanic ash that makes the ice dark especially in Southeast Greenland. ”

The area of the ice cap has diminished with the wrong ratios in the ‘Times Atlas, but it does not change that shrinks the ice in Greenland. In the period 2003 to 2008 are missing from 168 to 268 billion tons of ice, equivalent to four to six feet of water evenly over Denmark.


h/t to WUWT reader Peter Sørensen for flagging the DMI story in comments. Looking at that “dirty snow” in the photo above brings me back to the issue of black soot, which willmake the albedo change enough that even a little sun in below freezing temperatures can have an effect.

Aircraft measurements show surprisingly high levels of black carbon particles in the global atmosphere – Asia blamed

Soot easier to control than CO2 – may help Arctic ice

Greenland Ground Zero for Global Soot Warming


HBig tip…..

In the bishop hill comments section about this story.

Richard Betts is really annoyed, he wrote the climate change section for the Atlas.

He says that is not what he wrote, he is going to complain to the editors and the GUARDIAN

Richard Betts, is Head of Climate Impact for, UK Met Office, and an AR4 working gp 1 contributor, and a lead author for IPCC AR5, working group2

He sounds quite annoyed by media misinformation, and was twittering about it as well.

Richard Betts, Met Office & IPCC:

“I’m not happy. I wrote the climate change section for this Atlas and didn’t say any of that Greenland rubbish!

I have contacted the editors.

Sep 17, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Richard Betts”

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Pamela Gray
September 17, 2011 7:58 am

Ya know, if I were touting myself as a climate scientist, I would, by now, be very reticent to contribute chapters or even opinions in any commercial product other than my own research article. That would include scientists who might be asked to contribute to AR5. Once bitten…

September 17, 2011 8:04 am

In the period 2003 to 2008 are missing from 168 to 268 billion tons of ice, equivalent to four to six feet of water evenly over Denmark.

Oh my – a new metric for melted ice! Denmark better get the Dutch to build them some dikes to go along with their wind turbines….
Yes, I could determine the number of Denmarks covered by the Earth’s ocean and convert the depth in to something worthwhile. However, I do have better things to do. I’m sure Danish readers here learned that critical ratio in school and will recite it here. 🙂 Preferably as a limerick.

John F. Hultquist
September 17, 2011 8:05 am

What did Richard Betts write and when did he write it?
Who changed the article and when did they change it?
An inquiring world wants to know.

September 17, 2011 8:06 am

Tut, tut, Pamela. I’m sure you mean reluctant. : > )

Steve Keohane
September 17, 2011 8:12 am

Just a couple of days ago I made this blink comparison from CT to look at Greenland, and noticed that the east shore had really whitened and filled this year compared to last.

David Schofield
September 17, 2011 8:13 am

Happy Birthday

September 17, 2011 8:24 am

Anthony: best luck with the ear. And thanks again for the spectacular work you do.

September 17, 2011 8:27 am

Not so happy the birthday then ;( I hope you get better.
Steven Goddard has a good blinking pictures between the Atlas and a real satellite picture… the truth is that we don’t see the land and it is all white.

September 17, 2011 8:27 am

Isn’t it interesting that Vidal wouldn’t allow comments on his article about the 15% Greenland ice decrease. I tried to point out the error on the next article by him and he deleted my comment.

September 17, 2011 8:29 am

Well, happy Birthday Anthony, hope you are well soon. Ear infections are misserable so the day may be shot, but one can always celebrate in a few days. Cheers!
This lack of honesty in reporting, or publishing really bums me out. It seems that very little is reliable anymore. There was a time, not long ago when accuracy to the the New Times World Atlas was paramount, an issue of pride and honor. Maybe not so much anymore.

September 17, 2011 8:31 am

Happy birthday, Anthony.

September 17, 2011 8:33 am

Happy Birthday also. Will the number of candles on your cake materially contribute to AGW?

September 17, 2011 8:37 am

It is interesting to look at photos of this island taken in the 1940-50s…. It was already then observed as an island…
Map from Dr. Lauge Koch expeditions who mapped and took pictured from an airplane beteen 1940-1950. From the book: Arctic Riviera
Here is a slide from I once used last time this “new” island was used the same way.. So watts-new 🙂

September 17, 2011 8:47 am

@John F. Hultquist
I’m not suggesting they actually changed my article – the page proofs were fine. The erroneous statement is in the press release, referring to the maps (which I wasn’t involved in).

P Wilson
September 17, 2011 8:59 am
Here is where you can contact the Times Atlas team directly, to correct them

September 17, 2011 9:31 am

So the Atlantic sea level did go up since 1999, right?

September 17, 2011 9:51 am

…another perfect example of redefining what normal is
The entire science is based on their definition of normal….

September 17, 2011 10:13 am

I just ran the numbes and posted the following over at the Guardian. Since Vidal wasn’t taking comments about the 15% Greenland ice loss, I posted it on his next article. My bet is that he will not allow it through:
Okay, let’s do the math Mr. Vidal. According to Wikipedia, all of Greenland’s ice melting would give us 7.2 meters of sea level rise.
The University of Colorado sea level page shows that the rate of sea level rise for the period of 1999 to 2011 is about 3.2 mm per year.
So 12 x 3.2 = 38.4 mm. or 3.84 centimeters.
All of Greenlands ice melting would give us 7.2 meters = 720 centimeters of sea level rise.
Now assuming that melting Greenland ice was responsible for all of the sea level rise, the fraction of the ice that would have been lost to raise the sea level by 3.84 centimeters is 3.84/720 = 0.005333. So this would mean that Greenland had lost .53 % of its ice. But of course Greenland is not the only source of sea level rise. But let’s be generous and say that it is responsible for half. In that case, Greenland would have lost 0.266% of its ice in 12 years – about one quarter of 1%. This instead of the 15% that Mr. Vidal has given us. So the number that Mr. Vital has given us about Greenland ice loss is off by a factor of 56.

Barbara Munsey
September 17, 2011 10:17 am

Many happy returns of a happy birthday to you, and I hope your ears get better. Ditto on the comments of those who thank you for all that you do.

September 17, 2011 10:29 am

There are some interesting photos from 1972 at a place near Thule in NW Greenland which show no ice on the land or sea. According to the “old” map the whole area is white.

September 17, 2011 10:31 am

The link for the Thule photos is :-

September 17, 2011 11:13 am

Will they deliver the Atlas with a bottle of white paint so buyers can correct the Greenland map? 😉

September 17, 2011 11:15 am

A google news search with the query
times atlas greenland
reveals only gullible sycophants at the moment…

David McKeever
September 17, 2011 11:32 am

“This instead of the 15% that Mr. Vidal has given us. So the number that Mr. Vital has given us about Greenland ice loss is off by a factor of 56.”
The claim is that the land area covered by ice is reduced by 15% not the total quantity of ice covering Greenland has been reduced by 15%.

Anything is possible
September 17, 2011 2:25 pm

“The claim is that the land area covered by ice is reduced by 15% not the total quantity of ice covering Greenland has been reduced by 15%.”
This claim is true. And what’s more it happens every single year.
Alarmists call it “impending catastrophe”
Sane and rational people call it “summer”.

The Engineer
September 18, 2011 2:18 am

@Ric Verme
“Der er et yndigt land”
Area of Denmark 43000 sq. kms.
“der står med brede bøge”
Area of land på earth: 149.000.000 sq. kms.
“nær salten østerstrand”
Ratio Danmarks to landarea: 3465
“Det bugter sig i bakke, dal”
Surface area earth: 500.000.000 sq. kms.
“det hedder gamle Danmark”
Ratio Danmarks til earth: 11628
“og det er Frejas sal”
“og det er Frejas sal”.
Adam Oehlensschäger 1823
But the national anthem equates 1 Denmark to 1 earth, of course.

George Tetley
September 18, 2011 2:50 am

Happy Birthday Anthony, and thank you for all you do for us.

P. Solar
September 18, 2011 3:00 am

Tilo Reber says:
September 17, 2011 at 8:27 am
Isn’t it interesting that Vidal wouldn’t allow comments on his article about the 15% Greenland ice decrease. I tried to point out the error on the next article by him and he deleted my comment.
Posting comments is like farting in a hurricane. I suggest you email a complaint when they get things wrong : cc:
If they think you make a reasonable point you get an automated thank you , otherwise nothing. I have sent comments on several matters and they do read them and take notice.
Tell them where they’re wrong and preferable a reliable source of correct info.
Vidal is a nutter in the same category as McKibben but the paper is not all bad.

mike in Oz
September 19, 2011 3:28 am

I see that the BBC has picked up the controversy, with more evidence that the ice issue was overstated in order to drum up publicity for the new atlas. See

P Wilson
September 19, 2011 4:23 am

from that BBC link:
Leading UK polar scientists say the Times Atlas of the World was wrong to assert that it has had to re-draw its map of Greenland due to climate change.
The Scott Polar group, which includes director Julian Dowdeswell, says the claim of a 15% loss in just 12 years is wrong.
“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,” they say in a letter that has been sent to the Times.
“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.”

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