Home > AGW, Catastrophism, Climate Change, Data, Global Warming, Omniclimate, Science, Skepticism > Times Atlas: Suicide By Wikipedia? – UPDATED

Times Atlas: Suicide By Wikipedia? – UPDATED

UPDATED: Sort of a confirmation for the below as Hanlon at the Daily Mail has posted an article where HarperCollins, the publishers of the Times Atlas Greenland fiasco, try to argue that they only depicted white the areas with ice>500m thick.

Strange things are always afoot, in matters of climate.

Incredibly, and despite having been shown the wrongness of their ways from multiple and even warmist sources, a spokesperson from the £150-a-piece Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World still maintains their debunked “AtlasGate” Greenland map is correct:

“But 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.

As the story unfolds, I would like to point to something about the new map that is strange indeed: the level of detail. See for example this comparison from Real Science:

There are two possible interpretations for that: either some people at the Times Atlas have decided to reinvent the world adding fantasy features to a previously fully white map; or, much more likely, they have used some other, existing map of Greenland, embellishing to conform to the Times Atlas style.

In fact, and intriguingly, and twice embarrassingly, there exists one map that strongly resembles the Times Atlas’ “15%” Greenland (see also the Greenland Physical Map from TourTeam.dk). And the embarrassing bits are: it’s one map used on Wikipedia. Worse, it’s supposed to be only showing ice sheet thickness, not “cover” as claimed (it doesn’t highlight the areas where the ice is less than 10m/30ft thick).

Look for example at the outline of Eastern sides of Kong Christian IX Land and Kong Christian X Land, the nearest to Iceland (brown on the Times Atlas to the left, green on Wikipedia to the right).

Look now at the Times Atlas’ Greenland map of 1999 (below, to the left) and the fact that their 2011 map (center) is so much alike the Wikipedia Greenland ice-sheet thickness (right) becomes even more evident.

So the following series of events is consistent with the observations:

  1. Times Atlas personnel read or listen from somewhere that the Greenland ice sheet is melting
  2. They open the Wikipedia page on the Greenland ice sheet
  3. As if by magic…that page contains a map of Greenland
  4. Times Atlas personnel convert that map to the Times Atlas high-quality standard

Now where’s the evidence for it? Where is it indeed, as Michael Corleone would have asked.


This doesn’t look like a good way to enhance the reputation of a publication like the Times Atlas. As usual, it’s the stubborness of their response the real problem, perhaps even more than the original error. One is left wondering how many more mistakes have been made (perhaps them too, miraculously similar to maps posted on Wikipedia), mistakes simply too small to immediately notice. And the publishers and editor will never admit one anyway.

  1. Vinny Burgoo
    2011/09/21 at 21:58

    Amazon is currently selling the previous (12th) edition of _The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World_ for £99.42 including UK delivery. It is selling the new edition for about £86.50, same terms.

    The market giving daft initial discounts or the market admitting that the new product is crap?

  2. 2011/09/21 at 09:25

    Oh, they definitely fornicated the K9 on this one. First of all follow the money, a $200+ atlas and how many did they print? That’s a big loss if their maps are inaccurate. Then, they are NOT THE best there is (mapmakers) National Geographic has got them beat. So does the USGS. I would also like to know of what month or season of the year they consider this map a representation? There can be up to two months of melt, that changes snow pack immensely. And no representation of ice/snow unless it’s >500m, that’s a 1/4 of a mile folks. That’s accuracy?? That’s like taking a measurement of 12 inches and saying my range of error is + or – 4 inches. That does not fly. Send out reprints of the pages, TimesAtlas, and try to regain some of your respect.

  3. Richard A
    2011/09/20 at 23:36

    The evidence would suggest the atlas is not a cartographer’s production, rather an overpriced cut and paste picture book.

    • 2011/09/20 at 23:47

      No, Richard, the quality of the maps in terms of technique for what I have seen is very high, as usual. However, even the best cartographer can’t resist the law of “GIGO”.

  4. 2011/09/20 at 21:06

    Very good analysis, Maurizio. I note that Michael Hanlon, while making some valid points, is still thinking in terms of climate change as something that the public needs to be “informed and concerned about” and that there are the sceptics, who think it all “conspiratorial nonsense”, on the one hand and the scientists “who believe in climate change – and that means nearly all of them” on the other. The penny hasn’t quite dropped yet, for him.

  5. 2011/09/20 at 19:43

    Well spotted, sir!

  6. Vinny Burgoo
    2011/09/20 at 19:10

    Despite what Sheena Barclay says, there must have been more to it than ‘land covered with ice less than 500m thick = ice-free for our purposes’. Look at the area around the Petermann Glacier (north of ‘Washington Land’ in the NW of Greenland). Weirdly, most of the Petermann Fjord is shown as ice-free land, whereas it is, in fact, ice-covered sea.

    The <500m elevation theory currently looks like the winner.

  7. DirkH
    2011/09/20 at 17:20

    Very good find, and a probable explanation. Some lazy editor…

  8. Doug Proctor
    2011/09/20 at 15:51

    Oops and triple-oops.

    When you do big jobs, errors are going to get in. The ones you find just after publication used to have an “errata” page note slipped into the front. The second edition has less errors than the first. Error correction is part of the process. The sin is in not admitting the error, not in having one.

    The Atlas people now have a 150 pound problem. Multiple annoyed people are going to be checking all the maps and stats – including, as pointed out above, rainfall etc. – and posting the errors on-line. A list will be created that says the Atlas should not be counted on, rather than “these are the errata that need noting and correcting in the second edition”.

    The reason that remorse in a perp is considered in sentencing is that acceptance of his error is required for the community to find forgiveness. When the Atlas – and Hansen, and Gore, and Trenberth, and Mann, refuse to admit error, we correctly recognize that they feel no remorse. Like the thief who believes he deserves what other people have despite not earning it, the Atlas crowd mindset is towards the “higher” goal: global catastrophe awaits us if we don’t change our ways! The difference that the A-crowd are looking to the betterment of humanity instead of the betterment of their pocketbook is a difference of detail, not substance.

  9. Skeptic
    2011/09/20 at 15:02

    Is this a leftover of Connelly’s warmist editing?

  10. golf charley
    2011/09/20 at 12:45

    I do not have a copy of the Atlas, but was wondering if it also contains maps of areas with low rainfall, high rainfall, deforestation, hot desert, cold desert, Himalyan ice etc, all areas where lazy eco bunnies may have looked to Wikipedia/Greenpeace/WWF for source info?

    Maurizio, is this story just the tip of the ice berg? (that wasn’t supposed to be there)

  11. 2011/09/20 at 11:55

    Let’s do the calculations. Fifteen percent of the Greenland ice cap melting equals 1.1 meter of sea level rise.

    What is that in American? Three feet, six and one half inches.
    Guess we’ll need to send out a dive team to recover Plymouth Rock.
    No, no. It’s alright. There she is, still dry. http://www.visit-plymouth.com/

    Hey! Hold on a tick. What happened to the Greenland water?

    • 2011/09/30 at 13:01

      It’s hiding in the deep ocean, along with Trenberth’s “missing heat”.

  12. jorgekafkazar
    2011/09/20 at 07:03

    Times Atlas is not the only publication that has been made to look like a bunch of monkeys by relying on Warmist sources. There is Science, and Nature, and AR4, and…

  13. lapogus
    2011/09/20 at 06:45

    Well done for spotting the Wiki map similarities, it would appear to be a good explanation for the Times Atlas incompetence. As for other mistakes, I noticed that the Times Atlas press release also attributed the drying of the Colorado as it nears the sea, and the retreat of the Aral Sea and Dead Sea to climate change, when in reality the Colorado is dry due to increased abstraction, and the Aral Sea lost much of its in-flow due to abstraction for Soviet irrigation schemes. Both the Guardian and BBC (Richard Black – who else?) were happy to perpetuate these falsehoods without correction in there coverage of the Greenland map saga.

    I am not sure if there is a problem with the Dead Sea, and if there is if it has anything to do with AGW.

  14. Latitude
    2011/09/20 at 01:30

    excellent find…………………….

    I’d say we have a winner!

  15. Mike Davis
    2011/09/20 at 00:59

    I wonder if they also raised the sea level To brother Al or Big Jim’s imaginary levels!

  1. 2011/09/23 at 07:52
  2. 2011/09/22 at 07:01
  3. 2011/09/20 at 22:40
  4. 2011/09/20 at 16:02
  5. 2011/09/20 at 01:41

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