According to an article in the New York Times, the new Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World shows a decline in Greenland’s ice cap of some 15% (“Times” refers to the Times of London).  According to geologists, this is not even close to reality.  The decline since the publication of the last Atlas (1999) is more like one tenth of one percent, i.e., perhaps incapable of measurement.

An unidentified spokeswoman at HarperCollins at first explained to the learned geologists and climatologists objecting to the depiction of an ice-free Greenland coast that “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 Center in Boulder, Colorado.  Our data shows it has reduced by 15 percent.  That’s categorical.”

What exactly does she mean by “categorical”?  My American Heritage defines the word as “being without exception or qualification; absolute.”  So I guess she means the 15 percent is without exception or qualification.  Which is interesting, because the spokeswoman for Collins Geo, the HarperCollins subsidiary, later seemed to accept not only that 15 percent reduction in ice coverage is not “categorical”, even the definition of ice is not “categorical”, from the NYT article:

She promised a new, “much more detailed map of Greenland that will represent more effectively the ice cover as it is.”

Asked if by “effectively” she meant “accurately,” Ms. Barclay replied, “It’s a case of actually how you define the ice itself, and at the scales at which we show Greenland it’s actually quite difficult to achieve that.”

Is it any wonder that people are skeptical of anthropogenic global warming claims, when a categorical reduction in ice coverage becomes almost overnight an inability to define ice itself at the scales at which an island is depicted on a map?  AGW’s absolute truth morphs into a squishy problem of defining ice.  Incidentally, “ice” has been defined for millennia as simply the solid form of water, which is a molecule made of two hydrogen and one oxygen atoms.   The only thing hard to define for Ms. Barclay is how her cartographers were so stupid.  But here’s an answer–they projected onto the Greenland ice sheet that which they wanted to see, a profoundly human error that I am sure never happens in any other realm of anthropogenic global warming science. 

Kudos to the scientists, many of them leading climatologists, that forced HarperCollins hand.

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