Lying With Statistics, Global Warming Edition

The Daily Mail, which has something of a specialty in climate denial, apparently discovered this weekend that Britain’s Met Office has updated its long-term global temperature series. This happened several months ago, and the changes from the HadCRUT3 series to the HadCRUT4 series were fairly minor, but I guess anything is a good excuse to rerun one of their oldest wheezes: a colorful chart that starts with the unusual temperature spike of 1997-98 to make it look like global warming has stopped. Here’s my version of the chart in their story:

You know the rest of this story, right? It’s a noisy data series, and if you choose any other starting point — 1996 or 1999 will do fine — the trendline looks quite different. A chart that includes the entire past century is below, and as you can see, it’s easy to find several decade-long plateaus if you cherry pick the data just the right way. But if you look at the entire series, it’s pretty obvious that the world is still heating up. Be sure to let your Daily Mail-loving friends know.

BONUS CHART: If you want to see all the other times that global warming has “stopped” during the past century, just click here and scroll down.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.