The most controversial chart in history, explained

By Chris Mooney

Back in 1998, a little-known climate scientist named Michael Mann and two colleagues published a paper [PDF] that sought to reconstruct the planet’s past temperatures going back half a millennium before the era of thermometers — thereby showing just how out of whack recent warming has been. The finding: Recent Northern Hemisphere temperatures had been “warmer than any other year since (at least) AD 1400.” The graph depicting this result looked rather like a hockey stick: After a long period of relatively minor temperature variations (the “shaft”), it showed a sharp mercury upswing during the last century or so (“the blade”).

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