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« Cooking the books | Main | Education Secretary used private emails »

Atlas mounting

The brouhaha over the Times atlas seems to be developing legs, with NSIDC denying any involvement in the errors. But it not NSIDC, then who was it that supplied the duff data?

Maurizio Morabito has been examining the amusing possibility that the source was Wikipedia.

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Reader Comments (72)

John Vidal reports:

//A spokeswoman for Times Atlas defended the 15% figure and the new map. "We are the best there is. We are confident of the data we have used and of the cartography. We use data supplied by the US Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. They use radar techniques to measure the permanent ice. We have compared the extent of the ice surface in 1999 with that of 2011. Our data shows that it has reduced by 15%. That's categorical," she said.//

So in fact they aren't wrong - there is no mistake after all. Good to know we can rely on the fourth estate to out the trash.

Sep 20, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I was watching Chris Huhne being interviewed by Andrew Neil the other day, and spotted a wonderful example of logical incoherence. The programme of green energy is going to lead, says Mr Huhne, to lower bills. Why? Because we are going to insulate our houses better and do more things in energy efficient ways. Why and how? Well, there will be goverment programmes and these will more than offset the higher unit prices for energy, so overall spending will fall.

At least, that is what he seemed to be saying.

Neil then missed a trick. He should obviously have asked, what if we do all the energy saving stuff, and just skip the green energy programmes. Does that mean spending falls even more?

Its a bit like someone who says that he is going to get a less efficient boiler and set the thermostat lower, which will more than offset what he loses from getting the less efficient boiler.

Yes, and if you stay with the same boiler and lower the thermostat by the same amount, do you save more?

Sep 20, 2011 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered Commentermichel

From WUWT:

A commenter here

Said this: “I have the 1997 edition of The Times Atlas of the World. I have just examined the map of Greenland and it is identical to the one shown above.

I don’t think the publishers have redrawn the map at all. They are just pretending that they’ve got it right by quoting the alarmists’ figures.”

Sep 20, 2011 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

They just want to sell more atlasas, they know that believers are gullible and the tempation to own a paper atlas which can 'prove' to their bored friends in the pub that CAGW is happening will be too much for them. Cash in!

You can't fault their business acumen. I wish I could think of some way to cash in on the gullible too.

Sep 20, 2011 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Michel - I heard the Neil/Huhne interview, and also thought that AN missed a couple of opportunities. Mind you, interviewing Huhne is rather like nailing jelly - just staying awake must be hard enough! I agree entirely about the boiler argument, too.

WRT Wikipedia, could this be William Connelly's greatest achievement - getting to be unofficial editor of the Times Atlas?

Sep 20, 2011 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Something else missed in the above logic is that with many of these "green" energy sources such as windmills the cost is almost entirely capital costs. If people respond to increased costs by decreasing usage then the generators have to put up prices even more to compensate. They can NOT allow total revenues to fall.

This is in contrast to oil or gas generation where the fuel makes up the largest part of the cost.

Sep 20, 2011 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce Hoult

How can we get WIKI to include more editors in order to present a balanced view apart from relying solely on Connelly?

Sep 20, 2011 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterEdwin

Edwin, if we knew the answer to that, it would have been done long ago. The thing about WP is you get what you pay for, i.e. free user-generated information.

Sep 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

James P, Edwin - my very first reaction, on reading the head post and before clicking through to the comments, was to wonder who uploaded the Wikipedia map and to suspect whether it might have been the tireless Connolley.

Great minds, eh...

Sep 20, 2011 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

The fragrant Julienne Stroeve's response to my query about HarperCollins blaming NISDC for their (HarperCollins') mistake was this:

Hector, yes we are aware and we’re trying to get figure out exactly what they did – what data source they used, what processing they did, etc. Obviously we are not too happy about it (and nor or any the glaciologists who study Greenland). I would have thought if they found such a large difference in the extent of the ice sheet that they may have talked to some of the glaciologists who study Greenland to get their feedback before publishing the map. Or have talked to NSIDC aobut their results, or at the very least have done some literature review to see if their map was consistent with other results of changes in the Greenland mass balance. From what I understand, it appears they used the 5-km ice thickness product produced by Dr. Bamber (and distributed by NSIDC) to make their new map but ignored the caveats in the data set as mentioned above by Frank White (

Moving along, I see that Louise Gray (whom I have always regarded as a barking heater) has a piece on clamate change exaggerations.


Sep 20, 2011 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterHector Pascal


If you are bothered by undue influence being exerted by someone on particular Wiki articles, why not become a Wiki reviewer/editor yourself? It is easy enough. After all, this is an open-source project.

Sep 20, 2011 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I left this comment at WUWT:

Julienne Stroeve: “Currently, Greenland is losing mass at about a rate of 150 Gt per year, or about one third of a millimetre of sea level rise per year. That means in the 12 year period from 1999 through 2011 that the Times Atlas analysed, meltwater from the Greenland ice sheet has contributed roughly 3 mm to global sea level rise – not one meter.”

Can Dr Stroeve confirm that ice loss of 150 Gt per year is equivalent to about 0.6% per century? Total Greenland ice = 2.85m km3 = 2.57m Gt. at this rate it will take 17,133 years to melt all of Greenland’s ice.

Sep 20, 2011 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterMatt Ridley

For anyone who has not seen just how misleading and inaccurate the Times Atlas is, I think it is worth putting in this direct link to Steve Goddard's blink comparison -

I would still like to see the Guardian and Richard Black point out that the other claims made by Times Atlas (that the drying of the River Colorado as it nears the sea, and retreat of Aral Sea, are due to AGW) are also incorrect.

Sep 20, 2011 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

The Independent has chimed in, but still clinging to the weasel quote marks.

Prominent polar scientists have said there is "no support" for potentially "damaging" claims, made by The Times Atlas of the World last week

They just can't bring themselves to admit it straight out -- to them, it feels like putting down a loyal old golden retriever.

Full "story"

Sep 20, 2011 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

What is the coastline of Greenland?

Sep 20, 2011 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

We are the best there is. We are confident of the data we have used and of the cartography.

Atlas Mounting? Sounds more like 'Meh', Atlas Shrugged, to me.

Sep 20, 2011 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

If your sums are correct then they are standing by the story that 15% of the ice mass, or 385000Gt, has melted over 12 years, which would generate a 600mm increase in global sea level, which is 20 times the increase observed by the University of Colorado Sea Level group, including their arbitrary Glacial Isostatic Adjustment. It is astonishing that their spokeswoman can continue to put her fingers in her ears and go lalala.

Sep 20, 2011 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Thanks Bish!

Perhaps finally the MSM narrative has shifted towards "climate change stories are exaggerated". Good for all of us.

ps another scoop (funny none of the warmists has spotted this already)...if I am not mistaken, the ultimate ownership of the Times Atlas lies with..Rupert Murdoch!! In that case, expect the usual suspects to fantasize about AtlasGate being an astroturfing evil denialist plot.

Sep 20, 2011 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

I know. We'll adjust the coastline of Greenland a bit. This way, we'll be able to detect plagiarized copies of "our" map.

"Shrugged?" Bravo, Chuckles.

Sep 20, 2011 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

David S

No, they are saying it is losing ice at the rate of 150Gt a year, which is 0.06% per year.

she's not saying the 15% is correct, quite the reverse.


Sep 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterMatt Ridley

Sorry Matt I get it now - she is saying that they are losing 0.06% per year which adds up to 15% in 12 years.
My bad.

Sep 20, 2011 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S


"why not become a Wiki reviewer/editor yourself?"

Because as soon as you add some balance to a warmist topic, it will be edited back by the stoat (Connolley) and his chums. He was banned for it (eventually) but not for any useful length of time.

Wikipedia is reliable on a lot of topics, especially hard science, but not on climatology.

Sep 20, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

James P.
Doesn't climatology seem pretty hard to you? No one seems able to do it.

Sep 20, 2011 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterj ferguson

"Duff data"!

Have a care, Sir, my lawyers are poised!

Sep 20, 2011 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Duff

I wonder how many other so-called high quality reference books have pushed misleading or deceptive articles and maps in support of AGW?
We know the IPCC publishes untruths in support of AGW.
We know progressive leaders from all over the world are tripping over themselves to back policies that literally make no difference in the climate but enrich their friends.
We know major media pushes AGW lies about the climate daily.
How far does this corruption spread?
The defense of this by the Times spokes person is really rather pitiful: a direct reliance on authority, no facts offered at all.
But when ever AGW claims are challenged, the same strategy of argument by authority is relied on, if you bother to check.
My bet is the corruption of AGW is spread far and wide.

Sep 20, 2011 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

The publishers of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World have released this statement today regarding the erroneous statement about Greenland ice in the press release for the new edition:

The Times Atlas is renowned for its authority and we do our utmost to maintain that reputation. 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 of the atlas (The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, 13th edition), we issued a press release which unfortunately has been misleading with regard to the Greenland statistics. We came to these statistics by comparing the extent of the ice cap between the 10th and 13th editions (1999 vs 2011) of the atlas. The conclusion that was drawn from this, that 15% 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 apologize for this 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.

Sep 20, 2011 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

another classic moment in CAGW history...and wonderfully ironic that Murdoch's Harper Collins publishes the Atlas.

in australia, the Opposition has finally discovered a spine:

20 Sept: Big Pond: Abbott vows to scrap carbon scheme
As debate continues on the carbon pricing legislation in parliament, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has vowed to seize emissions permits bought by business...
'During the fixed-price phase of the carbon tax (from 2012 to 2015) I think we can close it down, and we will close it down without incurring the billions in liabilities that the (government) is talking about,' Mr Abbott told Macquarie Radio.
'It is typical of this government that they would try to booby-trap their legislation so that people couldn't then repeal a bad law.
'But we will ... and if we need a double dissolution (election) we will have one.'
Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said transparent and secure property rights were fundamental to any efficient and well-functioning market and would give investors certainty and confidence...
As debate continued in parliament on the clean energy legislation, a member of Mr Abbott's coalition team on Tuesday argued against the science of climate change.
Former scientist Dennis Jensen, a Liberal MP, told parliament the planet was not warming and it was wrong for the government to use a 'benign scientific theory' as a basis to legislate for a carbon tax.
'To put it simply, the carbon tax with all its regulatory machinations is built on quicksand,' Dr Jensen said.
'Take away the dodgy science and the need for a carbon tax becomes void.'...
Meanwhile, modelling prepared for the Victorian government showed a carbon tax would strip $1050 from individual incomes and $660 million out of Victoria's budget by 2015.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard told parliament the modelling was flawed...

Sep 20, 2011 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

bish -
you will want to read all of this:20 Sept: Guardian: Leo HIckman: Welsh schools to receive climate change education packA new climate change educational resource is to be sent to secondary schools across Wales – but will it appease sceptics?
It is still common to hear the view that school children are being "brainwashed" in classrooms with climate change "propaganda"....

Sep 20, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

@Richard Betts 2:18,

Thanks for that link Richard, but even that 'clarification' statement sounds laughably incorrect.

We came to these statistics by comparing the extent of the ice cap between the 10th and 13th editions

Their whole problem is surely that they did NOT compare the ice-cap extent, but rather compared the bits of their maps that they had chosen to colour white?

Sep 20, 2011 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

If one copies the Wikipedia version for the Geenland Ice Sheet and puts it alongside the new Times Atlas one as on WUWT, they will be seen to be remarkably similar.
Thomas G.

Sep 20, 2011 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterThomas G

Richard Betts and Chuckles

So are they saying the 10th and 13th editions both contained errors?

Sep 20, 2011 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

On Wikipedia

There is a point at which something is so biased that any attempt to a edit will not fundamentally change the bias. I decided a long time ago that the bias on Wikipedia was best left with as many "warts and all" as possible, because whilst it might be possible to remove the warts, the effect would just be entirely cosmetic: to remove from an otherwise wholly distorted article the "warts" (grossly wrong bits) which climate alarmists can't see, but reasonably minded people will pick up and realise the article is not at all impartial.

Sep 20, 2011 at 3:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

“The Times Atlas is renowned for its authority and we do our utmost to maintain that reputation”

Well that makes a change from: “We are the best there is (are?)” which would seem to be in some doubt. What happened in editions 11 and 12, I wonder?

Sep 20, 2011 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P


That must have presented an awful dilemma for the Graun - did they resist having a pop at a rival publisher* and preserve their warmist credentials? Nah - ‘course not.

*I know it’s not Times Newspapers, but it’s still owned by (money-for-old) Rupe.

Sep 20, 2011 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

This is good news, the only way the media will start to be suspicious of verbatim press release journalism is if they get burned like this and made to look like fools by believing charlatans.

Sep 20, 2011 at 3:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

JP "Money for old Rupe" ... love it.

Sep 20, 2011 at 3:37 PM | Registered CommenterJosh

Wikipedia is reliable on a lot of topics, especially hard science, but not on climatology.
Sep 20, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

I've no doubt that the same people we see in the Climategate emails also edit Wikipedia. I've also no doubt that those who run wikipedia are not at all adverse to helping out the propaganda dressed up as "articles" on climate.

Then you need to realise that the warmists are extremely well organised. Take e.g. the simple tactic of reverting everything a sceptic writes. They operate as a tag team, by the time it gets to the third revert, the poster is usually so annoyed with the blatant ridiculousness that they make the mistake of expressing their annoyance ... and end up getting banned because ... three entirely independence editors just happened to disagree with them ... just happened to turn up out of nowhere to disagree ... ?!!?.

Then you have the tactic of just constantly revising anything that a sceptic adds until it is meaningless. Add to that the way they can bring out their tag teams 24/7 and it should become clear that an isolated sceptic is never going to make any changes.

but the main tactic is to define the scope as being climate "science". Because the team control what comes out as climate "science" and as they have a fast rebuttal for anything that gets past the climate sceptic, there is absolutely no way to ever get substantial changes in

. E.g. let us pick the simplest change: "It has stopped warming". Now this may appear self-evident to any one with a o-level in any maths/science. But that is not enough. It has explicitly stated in a peer review paper - by a "respected" scientists (i.e. not a sceptic) and must not have been rebutted by a fast rebuttal paper, and ... even if you do pass all those tests, they'll sit on it like they sit on all the peer reviewed stuff obfuscating and frustrating any changes until any reasonable person decides their time is better spent on another subject.

And, we are talking here about the patently obvious, the undeniable, ... the "pause" has had a huge impact politically (not able to be mentioned) it has galvanised the opposition (not able to be mentioned) it has spawned huge debate (not able to be mentioned)

In short global warming on Wikipedia is not a science article. It is a collection of eco-political statements drawn from the papers of a small group of highly political people who I have no doubt often write their papers specifically for use in Wikipedia.

Sep 20, 2011 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Any Climate Wiki Edits by someone called "David Rose" AKA Johann Hari?

Sep 20, 2011 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered Commenterac1

Matt Ridley

Can Dr Stroeve confirm that ice loss of 150 Gt per year is equivalent to about 0.6% per century? Total Greenland ice = 2.85m km3 = 2.57m Gt. at this rate it will take 17,133 years to melt all of Greenland’s ice.

Matt, do you have any reason to assume that ice loss will be linear in a warming world?

Sep 20, 2011 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterAll in it together

So with this loss of Greenland ice, combined with the the recent trend of falling sea levels, where is it all the water going?

Has an unmanned deep sea research sub actually knocked out a plug, allowing the sea water to be vapourised by the million degrees of heat at the centre of the earth, as reported by Nobel Prize winner Al Gore?

Or is there a significant flaw somewhere?

Sep 20, 2011 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

@ all in it together

Warmists assume everything is linear and extrapolate thus.

Sep 20, 2011 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar


I don't think Matt Ridley will appreciate being called a warmist!

Sep 20, 2011 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterAll in it together

Golf Charley

Apparently the recent fall in sea level is related to flooding during 2010-2011:

The extra water has (temporarily) been shifted out of the ocean and onto the land

Sep 20, 2011 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAll in it together

All in it together - I have no special knowledge of the issue of sea levels. But this sounds like another of those "Just-So Stories" that are used to account for every observation and make them consistent with continued warming. The claim (see e.g. this description from NASA) is that increased rainfall removed water from the oceans temporarily in 2010, but that this will flow back in due course and sea level rise will resume its progression. That claim does not appear to be backed up by a peer-reviewed paper - but instead by this figure. Now, that figure appears to have quite a few areas of red - decreased water levels - as well as blue. If you could integrate it, you would get the net change of water on land. At WUWT (OK, not peer-reviewed either), Willis has eye-balled this plot and suggests the integral would be close to zero. I think you can see this by inspection: the land-mass would have to be dark-orange on average to yield the required mass or water. So this looks to like a "just-so story".

Sep 20, 2011 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Harvey

Post with haste repent at leisure: the landmasses would have to be mid-blue on average on that plot, not dark orange, to represent enough water shifted to land to offset the purported underlying sea-level rise.

Sep 20, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Harvey

O/T, but I gather out favourite university has just been rated the 261st-best in the world:

Colour me impressed!

Meanwhile, my old gaff places rather better:

Sorry, what's this argument from authority again? We should believe academics like Phil Jones because they're so clever? They seem a bit thick to me.

Sep 20, 2011 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka


Could be. But bear in mind that short term falls in sea level generally appear to be associated with La Nina. The drop that is currently happening is steeper than the others in the record, but there is no indication that it is outside the bounds of natural variability.

Sep 20, 2011 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterAll in it together

AIIT: I agree, it could be natural variability - it is a small change and we have had a La Nina. That does not mean it is not funny to see how quickly the spin comes in from e.g. SkS (they cite the rainfall theory also) whenever something is even slightly off-message.

Sep 20, 2011 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Harvey

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