Last week, the Times Atlas released its 13th edition at a cost of $237, updating the 1999 version. In the updated version, it is said that due to global warming, 15 percent of Greenland's former ice-covered land has turned green and ice-free.
The recently released 2011 Times Atlas (L) grossly exaggerates the amount of ice loss in Greenland, according to researchers at the Scott Polar Research Institute. (Photo: Times Atlas/ Modis – Toby Benh)
The new version also includes a number of revisions attributed to environmental change like the drying up of rivers such as the Colorado, the shrinking of inland waters like the Dead and Aral Seas, and the breakup of some Antarctic ice shelves.
What made headlines last week was that fact that for the first time, the new edition of the (atlas) has had to erase 15 percent 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, the atlas' editors said.
But scientists from the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University strongly dispute the updated figures in the Times Atlas. According to director Julian Dowdeswell, a 15 percent decrease in Greenland's ice in just 12 years is wrong.
The scientists sent a letter to the Times Atlas stating that recent satellite images of Greenland have made it clear that there are still numerous glaciers and permanent ice cover where the new Times Atlas shows ice-free conditions and the emergence of new lands.
Scientists said that while temperature rise is reducing ice cover around the North Pole, there is no support for Times Atlas' claim about Greenland in the published scientific literature.
According to the researchers, the volume of ice contained in the Greenland ice sheet has decreased by roughly 200 cubic km per year, or a decrease of about 0.1 percent by volume over 12 years.
A spokeswoman for Times Atlas defended the new data and the map, saying they used data supplied by the U.S. Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. In order to measure the permanent ice, they also used radar techniques.
We have compared the extent of the ice surface in 1999 with that of 2011. Our data shows that it has reduced by 15 percent. That's categorical, she said.