Gwynn Guilford in Quartz:
It used to be wars, Communism and colonialism that kept atlas illustrators on their toes. These days, though, their biggest headache is global warming.
For instance, when the National Geographic Atlas of the World is published this coming September, its renderings of the ice that caps the Arctic will be starkly different from those in the last edition, published in 2010, reports National Geographic. That reflects a disquieting long-term trend of around 12% Arctic ice loss per decade since the late 1970s—a pace that’s picked up since 2007. This comparison from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, although not the one used by National Geographic, should give a sense of how much skimpier that Arctic ice cover has gotten:
But drawing Arctic ice isn’t as uncontroversial as you might think. A few years ago, the Times Atlas mistakenly suggested that the Greenland ice sheet had shrunk by 15% since 1999, which it later retracted. Even choices made by the National Geographic atlas geographers have elicited criticism.
First is the issue of which years to compare. Arctic ice trends vary wildly by year. The atlas geographers’ use of data from 2012—a freakishly low year—risks misleading readers, as Walt Meier, a scientists at NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Lab, told NatGeo.
Then there’s the matter of which ice to illustrate.
Every winter, cold temperatures seal the Arctic under a sheet of ice. By late summer, though, the sun’s warmth has melted millions of square kilometers of that ice.