A team of unidentified hackers has managed to steal confidential global warming data after breaking into the e-mail server of a prominent, British climate-research center and posted them online - showing that climate scientists conspired to overstate that man has caused climate change.

Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Colorado, told the Associated Press that he believes the hackers did this to fuel skeptics theory that that climate change was not man-mad

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It is right before the Copenhagen debate, I'm sure that is not a coincidence, Trenberth said.

Over a decade's worth of email correspondence between leading British and U.S. scientists was hacked - 1,079 emails and over 3,800 documents - which were then posted on an anonymous FTP server in Russia. The hacker then posted a link to the 61-MB file of data on the blog Air Vent along with the following note:

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.

The 61-MB file of data has already been distributed via peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

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The University of East Anglia, in eastern England, said in a statement Saturday that the hackers had entered the server and stolen data at its Climatic Research Unit, a research center focused entirely on climate change.

We are aware that information from a server in one area of the university has been made available on public websites, the statement says.

We are extremely concerned that personal information about individuals may have been compromised. Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm what proportion of this material is genuine.

In one leaked e-mail from 1999, the research center's director, Phil Jones, writes to colleagues about graphs showing climate statistics over the last millennium, according to the Associated Press.

He alludes to one of Michael Mann's - director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State - articles in the journal Nature and writes, I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.

Mann says that the hackers are taking these words totally out of context to make something trivial appear nefarious.

The word 'trick' was used here colloquially, as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward, he claimed in an official statement.

Meanwhile, Stephen McIntyre, a blogger who on his Web site, climateaudit.org, is well known for challenging data used to chart climate patterns, said the revelations are quite breathtaking.

The leaked data comes just two weeks before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen will begin on Dec. 7 -18, when 192 nations will meet to discuss a solution on how to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases worldwide.