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Still icier than all of Brick Squad
September 23, 2011 9:35 AM   Subscribe

The Guardian recently reported that, according to the 2011 edition of the Times Atlas, a new island called Uunartoq Qeqertaq has emerged off the coast of Greenland due to a 15% loss in glacial cover since 1999. However, glaciologists were quick to point out that this was deeply improbable. Ejo Schrama, a professor at TU Delft whose research interests include satellite mapping of Greenland, has posted a copy of a letter subscribed by several scientists at the Scott Polar Research Insititute expressing displeasure/disgruntlement with the publishers of the atlas (the linked post has been continually updated as events have warranted, so keep an eye out). The publishers have issued a semi-apologetic statement, but why was the mistake made in the first place? ScienceInsider thinks they might have worked out the answer (see the update in the second half of the article).
posted by Dim Siawns (31 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by Fizz at 9:41 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is it too obvious to point out that if the conspiracy theorists were right about climate scientists, and that climate scientists are spreading misinformation on purpose just to scare people, then they would not have so quickly pointed out the error?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:46 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mapmakers don't look at Google Maps then?
posted by memebake at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2011


of course one obvious possible answer isn't mentioned - the "error" was a deliberate lie to further their agenda. Both sides on the debate have hardly been completely innocent in the reporting of their findings
posted by 2manyusernames at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2011


What they aren't reporting is that it appeared an a cloud of foul smelling gas, and it's covered in the ruins of an ancient city which features squid and octopus shaped creatures with unsettling regularity.

They also got the name wrong, I believe the proper spelling is "Leshp".
posted by quin at 9:49 AM on September 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


of course one obvious possible answer isn't mentioned - the "error" was a deliberate lie to further their agenda. Both sides on the debate have hardly been completely innocent in the reporting of their findings

Who lied to further what agenda? What debate? What findings are in question or known to be false?
posted by jsturgill at 9:49 AM on September 23, 2011 [8 favorites]


Uunartoq Qeqertaq

Wow. Kudos to The Grauniad for spelling it right.

I think.
posted by chavenet at 9:52 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Uunartoq Qeqertaq

Previously
posted by DU at 9:57 AM on September 23, 2011


I see from Wikipedia that Uunartoq Qeqertaq "was attached to the mainland of Liverpool Land", which leads one to speculate that perhaps the reason it was there when one bloke looked and then gone when the next lot came is that some scally's nicked it.
posted by Abiezer at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it too obvious to point out that if the conspiracy theorists were right about climate scientists, and that climate scientists are spreading misinformation on purpose just to scare people, then they would not have so quickly pointed out the error?
Unfortunately global warming deniers are going to take every error and mistake and use it to say all global warming is a lie.
of course one obvious possible answer isn't mentioned - the "error" was a deliberate lie to further their agenda. Both sides on the debate have hardly been completely innocent in the reporting of their findings
Spare me this bullshit. Mistakes are made and corrected in science all the time. And these weren't even scientists making the error, but cartographers.
posted by delmoi at 10:03 AM on September 23, 2011


It wasn't climate scientists who made this mistake, but map makers.

If you want a conspiracy theory to chew on, tin-foil hatters, chew on this: Maybe someone paid them to do it on purpose! To make the climate science look bad.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:06 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Both sides on the debate have hardly been completely innocent in the reporting of their findings

"Sides"? "Debate"? Good ol' false-equivalences!
posted by DU at 10:09 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


> according to the 2011 edition of the Times Atlas, a new island called Uunartoq Qeqertaq has emerged off the coast of Greenland due to a 15% loss in glacial cover...

Cut the publisher some slack. By the time the book is replaced on library shelves, it might be accurate.
posted by ardgedee at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know who fucked up worse: The Times for making the initial error, or The Guardian for running with the story based entirely on data from their ideological rival without thinking to fact check.

I'm definitely more embarrassed for the latter.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:17 AM on September 23, 2011


the Times Atlas is published by one of Rupert Murdoch's companies...
posted by dabug at 10:18 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, so we already know they were on the take from the climate change deniers...
posted by saulgoodman at 10:20 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to work in the same office as Collins-Bartholomew. Indeed, I'm pretty sure I recognize Jethro Lennox from my time on the Bishopbriggs campus. Of all the groups in the Collins reference conglomerate, Bartholomew was the most fiercely independent and most studious. What I think we have here is a data source error, which it looks like they're remedying.

I wouldn't past HarperCollins to make a marketing drama out of a minor cartographic error, though.
posted by scruss at 10:35 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd say that putting a town in slightly the wrong place is a minor cartographic error.

Inventing an island and publishing the proofed and reproofed maps in an atlas... that's a couple of order of magnitudes greater than "minor".
posted by hippybear at 10:36 AM on September 23, 2011


This is the place hronir come from, right?
posted by LionIndex at 10:40 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "
Is it too obvious to point out that if the conspiracy theorists were right about climate scientists, and that climate scientists are spreading misinformation on purpose just to scare people, then they would not have so quickly pointed out the error?
Unfortunately global warming deniers are going to take every error and mistake and use it to say all global warming is a lie.
of course one obvious possible answer isn't mentioned - the "error" was a deliberate lie to further their agenda. Both sides on the debate have hardly been completely innocent in the reporting of their findings
Spare me this bullshit. Mistakes are made and corrected in science all the time. And these weren't even scientists making the error, but cartographers.
"


I am not denying man-caused global warming. Just pointing out that when findings which deny man is the main cause of climate change are published the scientists are accused of deliberate fraud or misleading due to financial reward. However any idea that there might be the slightest possibility that a single scientists would possibly be less than 100% honest is met with derision.
posted by 2manyusernames at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2011


2manyusernames wrote: of course one obvious possible answer isn't mentioned - the "error" was a deliberate lie to further their agenda. Both sides on the debate have hardly been completely innocent in the reporting of their finding

Whose agenda? HarperCollins? The Times?

doubleyou tee eff, mate?!
posted by wierdo at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't there some weird thing that mapmakers do by inserting false things into maps to "copyright" them against competitors (i.e. if the competitor copied the map and it contained the false info, then they would know it was stolen from the originator of the false map?) Is it possible this is what it was? I doubt it, but it's an interesting thought.
posted by symbioid at 10:52 AM on September 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Initially I was with the conspiracy theorists on this one (I mean, obviously Murdoch did it to ridicule AGW), but the explanation provided in the article makes so much more sense: the source of error was
"a map NSIDC published in 2001 that showed the extent of Greenland's central, thickest ice sheet. It does not, however, show any of the peripheral glaciers."
posted by hat_eater at 10:55 AM on September 23, 2011


symbioid: "Isn't there some weird thing that mapmakers do by inserting false things into maps to "copyright" them against competitors (i.e. if the competitor copied the map and it contained the false info, then they would know it was stolen from the originator of the false map?) Is it possible this is what it was? I doubt it, but it's an interesting thought."
Trap streets
Phantom settlements
© Easter Eggs
posted by brokkr at 10:56 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are tons of glaciers in Scandinavia that haven't been mapped at all or haven't been mapped for a long time. In one of the more useful college classes I took, GIS, we digitized a bunch of historical maps of glaciated areas of Sweden and then created maps of the current glaciers from recent satellite imagery. The one I mapped, Kårsta, is in Lappland and is disappearing quite quickly, but it's still there.
posted by melissam at 10:57 AM on September 23, 2011


However any idea that there might be the slightest possibility that a single scientists would possibly be less than 100% honest is met with derision.

This is demonstrably untrue. There have, in fact, been official investigations of climate scientists (I'm going to assume you didn't mean to only say that for every accusation, there was someone, somewhere, who was deriding it). It's just that they've all turned out to show that the original criticisms were in fact, worthy of derision. Well, except when they haven't.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:16 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Philosopher Dirtbike: "However any idea that there might be the slightest possibility that a single scientists would possibly be less than 100% honest is met with derision.

This is demonstrably untrue. There have, in fact, been official investigations of climate scientists (I'm going to assume you didn't mean to only say that for every accusation, there was someone, somewhere, who was deriding it). It's just that they've all turned out to show that the original criticisms were in fact, worthy of derision. Well, except when they haven't.
"


Hmm. Okay, fair enough. I was wrong. I believe my mistake was looking only at the way certain groups on the internet argue/discuss climate change instead of only paying attention to the way that climate scientists debate and fact-check each other's views and findings. Sorry about that.
posted by 2manyusernames at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2011


It's a common mistake -- thinking that the arguments about the facts are the same as the facts themselves.
posted by hippybear at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


However any idea that there might be the slightest possibility that a single scientists would possibly be less than 100% honest is met with derision.
You actually quoted me already pointing what's wrong with that statement: "And these weren't even scientists making the error, but cartographers."

Secondly, yes it's pretty unlikely that scientists would fake data in order to promote an agenda. It would be extremely damaging to a scientific career if they were caught faking data, and in cases of climate science the error would probably caught pretty quickly. In almost all cases the people claiming that climate scientists lie are the ones pushing an agenda.
posted by delmoi at 11:30 AM on September 23, 2011


Inventing an island and publishing the proofed and reproofed maps in an atlas... that's a couple of order of magnitudes greater than "minor".

Uh, the island exists^. There's some question as to exactly how long it has been an island, i.e. disconnected from the mainland, that's all.
posted by dhartung at 12:19 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... this isn't about anything being incorrect with the maps then... it's about the explanation accompanying the maps?

Okay, so it's not even a minor cartographic error, then. Carry on.
posted by hippybear at 12:46 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


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