An anonymous hacker has broken into the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and posted over 1000 confidential emails from key climate change scientists online.
The emails could prove to be extremely damaging to the reputation of the scientists and the robustness of their research if they are revealed to be authentic.
A UEA spokesman said: "We are aware that information from a server used for research information in one area of the university has been made available on public websites. Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm that all of this material is genuine."
The authors of the emails include Philip Jones, the Director of the CRU, Keith Briffa, also at the CRU, and Michael Mann at the University of Virginia.
An anonymous link to an FTP server where the data was posted by the hacker first appeared on the blog The Air Vent yesterday.
According to Dave Britton, a press officer at the Met Office, the security breach occurred a couple of days ago. "We don't know yet whether the data that was stolen is authentic, but a thorough investigation is underway," he says.
Mann declined to comment on the content of the emails, but added, "However, I will say this: both their theft and, I believe, any reproduction on public web sites, etc. of individuals emails that were obtained, constitutes serious criminal activity. I'm hoping that the perpetrators and their faciliators will be tracked down and prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows."
Published at New Scientist, click view for more information