A changing climate mapped out

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The new edition of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World has turned an area of Greenland the size of the UK and Ireland “green”, as it charts the retreat of once-permanent ice cover.

Cartographers have had to erase 15 per cent of the ice on the world’s largest island in the 13th edition of the atlas, reflecting the retreat of Greenland’s glaciers over the past 12 years in face of a warming climate.

They have also included a new island off the coast of Greenland, named “Warming Island” (Uunartoq Qeqertoq), which has appeared as a separate piece of land several miles long as the ice melts and is large enough to be shown on the map.

The atlas documents a number of other environmental changes, including the break up of the Antarctic Wilkins ice shelf and the “ice bridge” that linked it to Charcot Island.

The Aral Sea has shrunk by three-quarters since 1967, while only a small proportion of Lake Chad still remains.

For the first time, the atlas charts not only their current extent, but their former coverage to highlight the changes that the bodies of water have undergone.

And rivers including the Colorado, in the US, and the Ongyin Gol in Mongolia are now shown as “intermittent”.

The Colorado does not reach the sea most years because of human activities including damming, irrigation and water redirected to cities such as Salt Lake City, while the Ongyin Gol has been diverted for gold-mining activities.

Jethro Lennox, editor of the Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World, said: “With every new edition of the atlas, we are giving people across the globe an up- to-date, accurate and instant picture of the current state of the planet.

“With each new map, we can see and plot environmental changes as they happen, and are increasingly concerned that in the near future important geographical features will disappear for ever.”

The new atlas reveals areas most at risk to rising sea levels, including Pacific islands and archipelagos, Indian Ocean islands and the coasts of Africa, India, South East Asia, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Researched by a team of 30 cartographers and four years in the making, the latest edition also charts changes to human geography and the formation of new nations.

South Sudan appears in the latest edition of the atlas as a separate country for the first time, after becoming an independent nation in July.

There are also 7,000 place-name changes in the new edition. Russia leads the way with 978 changes, followed by China which had 882 name changes since the last atlas.

Unusual place names in the atlas include Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump, a tourist site in Canada; Truth or Consequences, in New Mexico, US; and Hell, a town in Norway where temperatures reach minus 20C in winter.

The atlas also highlights that 90 per cent of the global population increase – with human numbers set to hit seven billion on 31 October – is coming from less-developed countries, particularly in southern and eastern Asia.

The average number of babies born to each woman in Europe is 1.6, below the 2.1 average needed to maintain current populations. And more than 50 per cent of the world’s population now lives in cities, with a large expansion of “megacities” which have more than 10 million inhabitants.