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Atlas Takes Heat For Melting Glacier Claim 429

Posted by Soulskill
from the cooler-heads-will-prevail dept.
dtjohnson writes "The 'Times Atlas of the World' claims, while publicizing its newest edition, that global warming has turned 15 percent of Greenland's former ice-covered land 'green and ice-free.' Now, however, scientists from the Scott Polar Research Institute say those figures, based on data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, are 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. Others have pointed out that if 15 percent of Greenland ice cover had been lost, then sea levels would have risen by 1 meter... which has not happened. Perhaps yet another climate controversy is brewing." An update to the Sciencemag.com story pinpoints the probable source of the error: a 2001 map from the NSIDC illustrates Greenland's central ice sheet without showing any of the peripheral glaciers. The Atlas editors may have seen this map and misinterpreted it. Says the article, "Now glaciologists are left trying to figure out how not understate the importance of the extent glacial ice melt, while at the same time correcting the error."
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Atlas Takes Heat For Melting Glacier Claim

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:46PM (#37447322)

    What started out as a well-supported observation that the earth was starting to slowly warm, followed by the suggestion that humans pumping tons of excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere may be at least partly to blame, has turned into a goddamned politicized mess. On one side you have grant-whores and alarmists, who have taken this reasonable observation and hyped it more-and-more over the last fifteen years into some increasingly alarmist Chicken Little hyperbole. On the other side you have a bunch of bible-thumping right-wing corporatists who think that if we just let mega-corporations do whatever the fuck they want (including pumping whatever shit into the air they feel like), then we would all live in some libertarian utopia.

    Frankly, I'm sick of all the bullshit from both sides. I've got a grant-whore "environmental scientist" (when did that even become a hard science?) screaming in one ear that we're all going to die if we don't go all-solar/all-wind in the next twenty years. In the other ear, I've got Jesusy McAnnRaynd telling me that Exxon only wants to give me love and flowers, and would never, ever hurt me. And frankly, I just want to punch BOTH of them at this point.

    Both sides have taken to over-exaggerating and over-hyping every bit of evidence they touch. And I've come to distrust them both.

    • False Dichotomy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      False dichotomy. There are definitely reasonable scientists publishing papers ...
      • by Shatrat (855151)
        That's not a false dichotomy. False dichotomy would be saying "Either my chair is made of wood, or it's made of metal" when it could actually be a wooden chair with metal legs.
        I think you may be looking for 'straw man'?
        • Re:False Dichotomy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by blueg3 (192743) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:21PM (#37447926)

          The false dichotomy suggested is that one side consists solely of "grant-whores and alarmists" and the other side, of "bible-thumping right-wing corporatists". There are certainly people who both (a) have a "side" and (b) say things about global warming that fall under neither description.

          • by SengirV (203400)

            Thank you. Seems that most folks passionate about the subject would have the other sided labeled as the OP described.

            • by blueg3 (192743)

              Seems that most folks passionate about the subject would have the other sided labeled as the OP described.

              Probably, but that doesn't make it an apt description. :-)

              There certainly are alarmists, grant-whores, and people making money off of the prospect of green technology. There are certainly corporatists. There are also a lot of entirely reasonable scientists. There are also a whole lot of people -- celebrities, journalists, TV persons, and regular people -- who could not science their way out of a paper bag and have some opinion on the matter.

              When you're looking for scientific opinions, only one of these grou

    • Parent is definitely Insightful Flamebait.

      My big bitch is that Jeusuy McAnnRaynd is the last person in the world I'd ever expect to be busy out there *defending* the scientific method. It's like previously KKK Democrats taking credit for the civil rights movement.

      It is indeed a cold day in hell.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by elrous0 (869638) *

        Except I don't buy that "environmental science" is any more an unbiased field of science than I buy that "ethnic studies" is an unbiased field of history.

        • by HBI (604924)

          There's no such thing as unbiased history. It's more biased than environmental science, even. Just some guy's opinion about stuff that happened long ago.

          • by rickb928 (945187)

            Amen. For instance, the fact of the destruction of the World Trade Center towers is just someone's opinion. Actually, many opinions.

            There's history, and there's opinion. Knowing the difference is helpful.

            • by HBI (604924)

              I was there that day. There are divergences to every story that cannot be documented by unadulterated video. You were saying?

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by elrous0 (869638) *

            And what is this "environmental science" but some scientists' INTERPRETATION of data? This isn't a field where the experiments can be replicated in some lab in Oslo, only where the interpretations of the data can be debated (and implications considered).

            • by skids (119237) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:18PM (#37447882) Homepage

              Well, a few more things it is: COLLECTION or the data, CORRELATION of the data, and CONSOLIDATION of the data with physics.

              Seriously, you think these people just kibitz all day like talk-show pundits? I guess it's easy to look down on someone from miles away.

            • by Arlet (29997)

              Thermometer readings are not subject to interpretation. The post-processing is, but that part can be replicated in some lab in Oslo.

              • by elrous0 (869638) *

                The post-processing is, but that part can be replicated in some lab in Oslo.

                That's the "human interpretation of the data" part, subject to the various foibles and subjectivity of the humans doing the interpretation (just as historians interpret historical data and documents). I doubt you can replicate that in a test tube.

                • by Arlet (29997) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:32PM (#37448132)

                  Other humans, with different interest, could re-interpret the same data, and publish their findings in a paper. It's a lot of work, but it's not impossible.

                  Actually, several group of people have done exactly this, and their results are in pretty good agreement.

                  • Agreement with what? That the climate warmed over the past century? That's one of the predicates to a statement of CAGW, but hardly a resounding endorsement.

                    Natural climate change happens and is our default null hypothesis here. What observations of data could convince you that observed climate change is not due to CO2, or not due to humans, or is not going to be catastrophic?

                    • by Arlet (29997)

                      You can't be talking about normal statistical variation, since the temperature over the past century is in a statistically significant upward trend. Since there is an effect, there must be a cause.

                      So, what is the cause of this "natural climate change" ?

                • The point is that climatologists are supposed to document their assumptions when doing that interpretation. Those assumptions can then be verified. They can't just say, "oh let's insert temp*=10; here because God told me it should be so".

                • by SETIGuy (33768) *

                  That's the "human interpretation of the data" part, subject to the various foibles and subjectivity of the humans doing the interpretation.

                  Same as when we measure the gravitational acceleration on the surface of the earth. Yet we biased scientists manage to get the same answer time and time again. Your big problem is when you don't like the answer.

              • by Obfuscant (592200)

                Thermometer readings are not subject to interpretation.

                Thermometer readings are subject to all kinds of errors and probelms. Painting the box they are mounted in the wrong color, mounting the box in an asphalt parking lot. No louvers on the box. One of the columnists for Analog did an article talking about how NOAA had messed up the installations of many of their sites.

                But that's only the tip of the iceberg. Thermometers are not involved in the vast majority of temperature readings today. Most are satellite based. It wasn't but a dozen years ago I remember se

        • by hey! (33014)

          Intellectual honesty isn't about being unbiased. Nobody would be honest because everyone's biased, especially if you define "biased" as "having an opinion".

          Intellectual honesty means exposing the basis for your conclusions to criticism; it means doing your best to apply the same criteria to your conclusions and methods that you apply to the people who disagree with you.

      • Parent is definitely Insightful Flamebait.

        My big bitch is that Jeusuy McAnnRaynd is the last person in the world I'd ever expect to be busy out there *defending* the scientific method. It's like previously KKK Democrats taking credit for the civil rights movement.

        It is indeed a cold day in hell.

        Parent is definitely Insightful Flamebait.

        No. The GP is correct. Good science gets distorted by politics and fashion. The Big Bang theory was initially dismissed by the scientific elite because it was developed by a member of the clergy and "smelled of creationism". Grad students are often told not to pursue an area of interest or curiosity because it is out of fashion or unpopular with those who award grants, and conversely if you submit a grant app in this topic with this goal you will find many more funding opportunities.

        Real scientists agree

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by hsthompson69 (1674722)

          I'm more than willing to stipulate GGP was Correct Insightful Flamebait :)

          My problem with the whole CAGW "science" is that it fails to start off with your basic falsifiable hypothesis, without which, playing the science game is pretty much impossible. NGW and AGW (natural global warming and anthropogenic global warming), when asserted simply in a given direction without magnitude, are almost trivially true (as well as falsifiable). Once you decide to place a magnitude on it, your falsifiable hypothesis st

          • by Layzej (1976930)

            My problem with the whole CAGW "science" is that it fails to start off with your basic falsifiable hypothesis, without which, playing the science game is pretty much impossible.

            Please don't go too deep into a discussion on falsifiable hypothesis with HSThompson. As an example he claimed that apples are a climate forcing, and that this would be falsified if the number of apples increased when temperatures decreased: "Science game" indeed. http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2410694&cid=37404294 [slashdot.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by bonch (38532)

      What started out as a well-supported observation that the earth was starting to slowly warm

      This isn't even true; global temperatures haven't risen since 1998. This contradicts computer simulation--the primary source of current global warming consensus--to such a degree that climate scientists are searching for hypotheses to explain the missing heat [reuters.com]. So now people are coming up with explanations for the observations that don't match their predictions. Truly the scientific method at work.

      Note that the the res

      • by rickb928 (945187) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:11PM (#37447742) Homepage Journal

        "global temperatures haven't risen since 1998"

        There is no point in making this claim. The scientists will refute it with copious data, and the deniers will bring out their own. Then everybody argues over what the data really means.

        Lost. We are lost.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Toonol (1057698)
          We need another decade or two of study before we commit strongly either way. This will allow the science to be improved, and will (hopefully) cause the pop-culture aspect of the controversy to fade. The best thing that could happen for climate science is for both the public and the politicians to STOP CARING about it.
          • by tehcyder (746570)

            We need another decade or two of study before we commit strongly either way. This will allow the science to be improved, and will (hopefully) cause the pop-culture aspect of the controversy to fade. The best thing that could happen for climate science is for both the public and the politicians to STOP CARING about it.

            In the meantime, of course, nothing we do could possibly be making things worse, and so we might as well wait a few hundred years to really get the science right. As we'll probably get hit by an asteroid before then, there's no need to worry.

      • by Arlet (29997) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:15PM (#37447814)

        This isn't even true; global temperatures haven't risen since 1998

        Except that 9 of the 10 hottest years in our measurements have been after 1998.

        1998 was a statistical fluke, an out-lier, due to a very active El-Nino during that particular year. In 2010, the same temperature was reached under very average circumstances.

      • This isn't even true; global temperatures haven't risen since 1998.

        Facts tend to disagree with your statement.

        Wikipedia temperature chart [wikipedia.org]

      • by blueg3 (192743) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:32PM (#37448118)

        global temperatures haven't risen since 1998

        I'm not going to talk at you about how to do data analysis and averaging. Picking 1998 as a starting point is a canary for someone who is measuring "increase" as "difference since start of plot" and then cherry-picking a high value as their start point.

        Even if you use that highly-deceptive "analysis" technique, though, it's not true:
        NASA GISS Global Surface Air Temperature Anomaly
        1998: 0.70 C
        2010: 0.83 C
        2010 is the most recent year for which there is data.

        NASA GISS Land-Ocean Temperature Index
        1998: 0.56 C
        2010: 0.63 C

        If you look at the tabular data [nasa.gov], anyone reasonably familiar with analysis should spot immediately that 1998 is an outlier and that there is an overall positive trend that continues up to 2010.

      • Um, yeah, that is pretty much how the scientific method works. You make observations, then you come up with ideas about the reasons those things happened, then you work out what would happen if you were correct, then you see if that actually happens, then you refine your ideas about why things happen.

        Everybody loves it when we use that method to cure and prevent diseases from killing people, but when we try to use that method to make sure the planet's atmosphere remains habitable for humans all of a sudden

    • if we just let mega-corporations do whatever the fuck they want (including pumping whatever shit into the air they feel like), then we would all live in some libertarian utopia.

      No, that's the corporatist position. Libertarians tend to be anti-corporate and would advocate for individuals suing those corporations for polluting their property. They favor stronger property rights than is typically* allowed in Western courts.

      * sometimes courts do allow this, e.g. MTBE in groundwater, but it's pretty rare.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Libertarians tend to be anti-corporate and would advocate for individuals suing those corporations for polluting their property.

        Strictly speaking, wouldn't anti-corporate mean piercing the corporate veil and suing the execs directly?

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          Even farther, the investors directly. Why the F... would you put your money in a company you didn't research and make sure they were legit?

          • Why the F... would you put your money in a company you didn't research and make sure they were legit?

            At the risk of answering a rhetorical question, there is a real answer: because the government privatizes the gains and socializes the risks and losses through the corporate structure.

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          I would assume that libertarians would support suing the individuals (not the corporation) most directly culpable. For instance, if a manager committed a crime by acting in opposition to orders from the executives, the manager should be sued. If the executives condoned the crime, they should be sued. If the shareholders had any reason to suspect crimes were being committed, but kept their money in the company, they should be sued.

          Well, at least, that's what I support, and I'm kind of libertarian. Can
          • I would assume that libertarians would support suing the individuals (not the corporation) most directly culpable.

            Yes, maybe. Libertarianism is a political strategy, not a political philosophy (several philosophies converge on promoting individual liberty). A Libertarian may advocate for a return to the pre-Civil-War era concept of weak, limited, or non-existent corporations, but if the corporations are around anyway, they will sue the corporation to protect the environment using property rights. They ma

      • by pecosdave (536896) *

        I'm glad you said that. I'm of strong Libertarian beliefs and I've been in a personal belief struggle with rationalizing how to protect freedom and the environment at the same time as pollution isn't victimless, but then again neither is regulation. I've put a lot of thought into how to do it without an acronym agency and your answer seems best.

        • I've put a lot of thought into how to do it without an acronym agency and your answer seems best.

          Cool. Ownership seems to be compatible with human nature. Africa has (had) big problems with wildlife poachers, elephants for example. In some areas they've assigned ownership rights to the elephants (the owners determine the harvest rates, etc.) and, surprise, surprise, those owners get out there and defend those elephants against the poachers far more effectively than the governments ever did.

          When resources

      • by jafac (1449)

        By that logic, 99% of Libertarians are not REAL Libertarians, because most of those who are calling themselves Libertarians are advocating for reform of the court system to make it HARDER to file lawsuits, claim that there are too many "frivolous" lawsuits, and frankly - if Exxon fracks the bedrock underneath my ranch that has been in my family for 5 generations, causing it to no longer be able to functionally support livestock or any form of agriculture - then there really is no amount of money that a cour

    • by Layzej (1976930) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:34PM (#37448166)
      Good on the scientists for noticing the error of the Atlas company and working to publicly correct it. That is certainly above and beyond the call of duty. I'm not sure how that makes them 'grant whores' though. They are not responsible for the misstatement. They are only responsible for publicly correcting it.
    • I'm in total agreement, except... Ayn Rand was an Atheist.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        Ayn Rand was an Atheist.

        Just don't tell the Tea Partiers.

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          Just don't tell the Tea Partiers.

          God forbid we grant that somebody in the Tea Party might knowingly agree with something an atheist said. That's as ridiculous as assuming that a liberal might agree with something a Christian said.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pecosdave (536896) *

      You make many valid points, bravo!

      Any research that disagrees with exactly what Al Gore dictates causes a scientist to lose their funding and to "get kicked out of the club". Good luck ever working in your field again if you dissent.

      Extra planetary bodies are also heating up. Mars, Venus, some Jovian moons, they're all increasing in temperature meaning humans probably aren't the cause of all of what's happening here at home.

      There's tons of profit on exploiting the hype.

      I am a hard-core Libertarian, but I

    • So far as I can see, the problem is that what we see on both sides (unless you go out of your way to investigate) are the "talking heads", which are the ones who make ridiculously exaggerated claims. What you should look at instead is scientific data, which is much more boring.

      But it seems that, insofar as we have actual data, and proper (i.e. not sensationalist) interpretations thereof, they do support AGW. Just not the kind of pro-AGW claims described in TFA.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:57PM (#37448556) Homepage Journal

      On one side you have grant-whores and alarmists... On the other side you have a bunch of bible-thumping right-wing corporatists

      Well, the important thing is that you've framed them both as equally bad so that you can feel superior to anyone who cares.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        No, so I can *tell* you why moderates like me don't care...because the extremists have become the public face of both sides.

    • by 0xdeadbeef (28836)

      On one side you have grant-whores and alarmists... On the other side you have a bunch of bible-thumping right-wing corporatists

      Well, the important thing is that you've framed both sides as equally bad so that you can feel superior to anyone who cares.

    • by hey! (33014)

      I don't know what your criteria for "grant whore" is; scientists have to put bread on the table like anyone else, and that means they have to submit proposals that are, in the judgment of the reviewers, likely to yield useful results. And after surviving decades of spirited debate, a proposal to overturn decades of climate research in one swell foop is going nowhere because nobody seriously believes you can do it with a single one paper or project.

      I watched this whole debate play out *before* it became a po

    • I'm tired of gross over-generalizations and stereotypes of people based on what you see in the media. The problem is as much the media polarizing people and labeling everyone. Then people have to look at what category they appear to fit in and assume that they have to agree with the popular opinions of "their group". The media states that everyone who disagrees with the conclusion of global warming must be for big corporation and a Christian. So then people like you continue the stereotype. Thanks for
  • to peer-reviewed scientific papers? Seriously, what's next -- complaining about an eight-year-old's drawing of Santa at the north pole showing a doubling in the thickness of sea ice?

    And yes, I flew over southeast Greenland twice this July, and I can assure you, it's still very much icy ;)

  • See more of this horrible scientific fraud in our 11 o'clock coverage!

  • So when it melts wouldnt it take up less space and the sea level would have lowered.
    • That's true, but unfortunately a lot of this ice is sitting on land...

    • by Arlet (29997)

      When it's frozen, it's stacked up high on the Greenland bedrock., and does not effect sea level at all. When it's in the sea (frozen or not), it raises sea level.

    • by Spectre (1685)

      Icebergs, floating chunks of ice, like all floating objects, displace the exact same mass of water as the object. Sea levels would neither rise nor fall due to a change in the amount of icebergs.

      Glaciers, which sit primarily on land, are not displacing any sea water. If there is a change in "glaciation", or "land-shelf-ice", that would change the sea level. Note, though, that the oceans are freakin' huge in terms of surface area compared to the surface area covered by glaciers/shelf-ice, with the only re

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Monday September 19, 2011 @03:56PM (#37447482)
    "Now glaciologists are left trying to figure out how not understate the importance of the extent glacial ice melt, while at the same time correcting the error."

    They wouldn't have this issue if there wasn't an opposition that will shout it to the heavens every time a mistake or revision is made in relation to global warming but every statement made in support of it is ignored, even if the two are part of the same package. "It's bad, but not as bad as this" will only be interpreted as "they've admitted they're wrong so it's all a hoax!" If we could actually have a clam and reasoned discussion about the issue without people with vested interests in it dominating the debate then this wouldn't be a concern.
  • Just be honest? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LBArrettAnderson (655246) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:01PM (#37447584)

    Now glaciologists are left trying to figure out how not understate the importance of the extent glacial ice melt, while at the same time correcting the error.
     
    How about you just be honest in the first place? If you are right about climate change, you don't need to exaggerate your claims. They should speak for themselves.

    • Re:Just be honest? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Arlet (29997) on Monday September 19, 2011 @04:08PM (#37447696)

      It wasn't a matter of exaggerating a claim. Somebody grabbed the wrong map, and didn't consult with a scientist.

      • by rickb928 (945187)

        I'm not sure it started out as a matter of exaggeration. When warming was first being discussed, the anarchists, anti-industrialists, and America-haters leapt on board and took this up as proof of their cause's righteousness. They did most of the exaggerating. Now it's all these groups fully invested in warming.

        Remember when the next Ice Age was the big concern? For some of these groups, any disaster will do, thank you.

        • by Nimey (114278)

          From your caricature of those who think AGW is happening, I see that you are a denialist.

          • by Toonol (1057698)
            Are you being ironic? Otherwise, you're an example supporting his point. He didn't say the science was wrong; just that it was picked up, popularized, and exaggerated by those whose political agenda it benefited. That part really isn't disputable.

            The same works the other way; there are rational skeptics of AGW, but the big force behind the 'deniers' are groups whose political agenda it harms. Both big groups and their lobbying organizations and PR campaigns need to be ignored.
        • by Asic Eng (193332)

          Remember when the next Ice Age was the big concern?

          No I don't. Typically the claim is made that this happened in the 70s, that in the 70s "all the scientists believed in global cooling". Out of curiosity: do you personally really remember the 70? I suppose many Slashdotters don't, but I was alive then, and there was no big concern about the next ice age.

          • by Toonol (1057698)
            Remember when the next Ice Age was the big concern?

            No I don't.

            I do, and so do many others. You don't, but... that's ok. It was overly-sensationalized then, even if there were legitimate reasons for concern. Much like AGW today.
            • by DesScorp (410532)

              Remember when the next Ice Age was the big concern?

              No I don't.

              I do, and so do many others. You don't, but... that's ok. It was overly-sensationalized then, even if there were legitimate reasons for concern. Much like AGW today.

              I certainly [time.com] remember [examiner.com] it.

              • by SETIGuy (33768) *

                Now do a search of climatology papers of the time and tell us what they were about? What? The vast majority were about global warming? You mean Time magazine created an over-sensationalized story about something that climate scientists at the time didn't believe in? And now climatologists are upset that their Atlas of the World has misstatements about how much glaciers had melted?

                I think this says far more about the credibility of TIME Magazine than it does about climate science.

    • by jandrese (485)
      The problem is getting the wording just right so some spin doctor can't come around and twist it to make it look like you said the opposite thing. This happens a lot in climate science and has made the entire community very careful in what they publish.
  • I for one want absolute accuracy in my coffee-table books. That's why I routinely scan all my books for even the most minor error and write a letter to the Times. Coffee table or not, someone might look in it and make broad assumptions on how the world works incorrectly and then run for office!

  • Ever since Andrew Ryan passed away that Atlas guy keeps insisting we're all gonna end up living underwater.

  • May be its all a mercator projection distortion?

    The totally stereotypical complaint is Greenland always looks as big as all of south america, despite only being about the size of Argentina. Or in the wiki article, looks bigger than Africa but Africa has 14 times the land area.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercator_projection [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Map_projection [wikipedia.org]

  • I am happy that our improved communications allow this sort of thing to be found and sorted quickly. 100 years ago and you'd just have different people coming to different conclusions based on different base data.

  • Give it another ten years or so and the maps will probably be right on.

  • "Now glaciologists are left trying to figure out how not understate the importance of the extent glacial ice melt, while at the same time correcting the error."

    Same thing happens when scientists find health benefits from smoking and alcohol consumption. They always hasten to add, "but it's still not a good idea to smoke/drink".

    Same thing with abstinence vs. condoms. Obviously, abstinence is more effective than sex with condoms in preventing unwanted pregnancies/STDs/AIDS. That is truth. But health authorities insist it's better to teach condom use rather abstinence. That's "cathechism".

  • ...shrug it off...
  • The NSIDC is desperately trying to throw the atlas publishers under the bus to preserve their credibility. "An update to the Sciencemag.com story pinpoints the probable source of the error: a 2001 map from the NSIDC illustrates Greenland's central ice sheet without showing any of the peripheral glaciers. The Atlas editors may have seen this map and misinterpreted it." The NSIDC wants people to believe that the Atlas publishers took a 2001 map sans glaciers and magicly turned it into a 2011 map showing a s

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