Hundreds of emails and documents exchanged between world's leading climate scientists stolen by hackers and leaked online
Leo Hickman guardian.co.uk, Friday 20 November 2009 15.31 GMT Article history
Hundreds of private emails and documents allegedly exchanged between some of the world's leading climate scientists over the past 13 years have been stolen by hackers and leaked online. The computer files were apparently accessed earlier this week from servers at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, a world-renowned centre focused on the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change.
Climate change sceptics who have studied the emails allege that they provide "smoking gun" evidence that some of the climatologists colluded in manipulating data to support the widely held view among the world's climatologists that climate change is real and is being largely caused by the actions of mankind. So far the veracity of the emails has not been confirmed and the scientists involved have declined to comment on the story which broke on a blog called The Air Vent.
The files, which in total amount to 61Mb of data, were first uploaded onto a Russian server, before being widely mirrored across the internet. The emails were accompanied by the anonymous statement, "We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents. Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it."
A spokesperson for the University of East Anglia 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. This information has been obtained and published without our permission and we took immediate action to remove the server in question from operation. We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation and we have involved the police in this enquiry."
Professor Phil Jones, the director of Climate Research Unit, features in many of the alleged emails. In one, dated November 1999, he discusses with three other climatologists how best to present data. This sentence, in particular, has been leaped on by sceptics as evidence of manipulating data, but, as yet, the veracity of the email has not been verified by the alleged sender or its recipients.
The emails also illustrate the persistent personal pressure some climatologists have been under from sceptics in recent years. There have been repeated calls, including Freedom of Information requests, for the Climate Research Unit to make public a confidential dataset of land-and-sea temperature recordings that is "value added" by the unit before being used by the Met Office. The emails show the frustration some climatologists have had at having to operate under such intense, often politically motivated, scrutiny.
When the Guardian asked Professor Jones to verify whether these emails were genuine, he refused to comment.
Professor Michael E Mann, director of Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Centre and a regular contributor to the popular climate science blog Real Climate, is another prominent climatologist who features in many of the email exchanges. He said: "I'm simply not going to comment on the content of illegally obtained emails. However, I will say this: both their theft and, I believe, any reproduction of the emails that were obtained on public websites, etc, constitutes serious criminal activity. I'm hoping that the perpetrators and their facilitators will be tracked down and prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows."