The University of East Anglia has confirmed that a data breach has put a large quantity of emails and other documents from staff at its Climate Research Unit online. CRU is one of the three leading climate research centres in the UK, and a globally acknowledged authority on temperature reconstructions.
CRU declined to say whether it would attempt to halt the data breach. In a statement a spokesman told us:
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.
A 61MB ZIP file was posted on a Russian FTP server late last night, local time. It contains over a thousand emails, and around three thousand other items including source code and data files. Emails are peppered with disparaging remarks and a crude cartoon of sceptical scientists is also included in the archive - suggesting the hacker roamed wide across the University's servers.
A spokesman confirmed there had been a hack, and that staff documents had been published, but declined to say whether the University would be seeking to halt further dissemination of the data.
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.
CRU has been the centre of controversy for its roles in creating global temperature reconstructions, and maintaining the archive of temperature data. Recent temperature reconstructions characterise post 1980 temperatures as unprecedentedly warm, and downplay historical periods of warm weather. This is the so called "Hockey Stick" controversy, and many (but far from all) of these reconstructions involve key CRU staff.
In August, Phil Jones admitted CRU had failed to keep the raw data, which would permit outside parties to create their own temperature reconstructions. More recently, CRU dendroclimatologist Keith Briffa defended his sampling methodology which saw the inclusion of one tree core from the Yamal Peninsula create a Hockey Stick shaped graph, dubbed the "hottest tree in the world".
The documents also appear to highlight a chummy relationship between sympathetic journalists - particularly the New York Times Andrew Revkin - and activist scientists.
It would be premature to comment further on the contents of the archive without establishing its authenticity. Some emails contain curious idioms and spelling - but perhaps that's what years of dendroclimatology do to the brain.