Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Times Atlas: "Ice-free" means any ground not covered by 500 meters or more of ice

Atlasgate: will they never learn? - Mail Online - Michael Hanlon's Science blog: From The Cutting Edge
The first problem is those words ‘green’ and ‘ice free’. According to Ms Barclay, ‘ice free’ refers to ground covered with less than 500 metres thick. So ‘green, ice-free land’ could refer to land covered with nearly third of a mile thickness of ice – thicker than the Empire State Building is high! I put it to Ms Barclay that this isn’t what most people would think of as ‘ice free’.

“Yes, I can see why you would see that as misleading” she admitted, after a very long pause. And ‘green’? To me (and I would guess everyone else) I think of bleak Greenlandic hillsides covered with grass or at least moss, perhaps a few grazing sheep. It turns out ‘green’ refers just to the printing colour chosen by the cartographers to indicate low-altitude land, and not its colour at all. Which is, er, white.

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