Environment

Melted permafrost seeps into fail-safe Global Seed Vault

Melted permafrost seeps into f...
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will be continuously monitored for further problems over the coming years
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will be continuously monitored for further problems over the coming years
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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is home to the world's largest seed collection
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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is home to the world's largest seed collection
Melted permafrost has poured into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault's entranceway
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Melted permafrost has poured into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault's entranceway
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will be continuously monitored for further problems over the coming years
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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault will be continuously monitored for further problems over the coming years

Located around halfway between Norway and the North Pole, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is home to the world's largest seed collection, intended to safeguard important crops for future generations. The site was chosen, in part, because the permafrost acts as a natural freezer to preserve the seeds, but record global temperatures have seen meltwater make its way inside, prompting new measures to fortify the facility in the face of climate change.

Designed as a storage facility to withstand natural disasters and war, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has been in operation for nine years and protects more than 930,000 different seed varieties. Sitting deep inside a mountain in the Arctic circle, the seeds inside are kept frozen even without power, thanks to the surrounding permafrost and rock.

But with 2016 the hottest year on record and the Arctic in particular experiencing extraordinarily warm temperatures, melted permafrost has poured into the vault's entranceway. According to the Global Crop Trust, which helps finance the project, this is because the "permafrost has not established itself as projected."

The Trust was quick to allay concerns over the well-being of the seeds, releasing a statement over the weekend assuring the public that none were harmed, as any water that enters the outer part of the vault is immediately pumped out. All the same, the Norwegian government is making a few technical upgrades to reduce the risk of water damage in the future.

These include the construction of drainage ditches in the mountainside to carry away any meltwater, new waterproof walls inside the entrance tunnel and moving the transformer station out of the tunnel to eliminate a heat source and make for easier maintenance. These changes will be implemented over the next 18 months, with the facility to be continuously monitored for further problems over the coming years.

Source: Global Crop Trust

7 comments
RobinLiebert
This story has been heavily exaggerated in media all over the world. The front door was never built too withstand water, and there was never any concern for the seed vault itself as the design of the hallway never would let the water pass. And this water has apperanently been finding it's way thru the door every spring since the opening. What's been happening according to a representativ is that the water is freezing further down in the hallway, making an hazard for people to enter the vault. And when you need to take a plane back to Norway for surgery you really don't want to break your hip!
Bob
This has got to be embarrassing to those experts who planned for years into the future but nine years later already are encountering difficulties. It shows just how fallible the experts are.
WilliamSager
If all it takes is a couple of years of hot weather to destroy this place I'm starting to think someone is refund.
EUbrainwashing
At least when poor Chicken Little has exhausted himself flapping about and crying out "oh dear, oh dear, the Man-made poisonous to life CO2 is causing unprecedented global-climate-warming-change" he can fill his little belly with a nice selection of seeds. Yum yum.
kwalispecial
When scientists trying to save humanity choose a location that is permanently frozen to store seeds, and only 9 years later the "perma" frost has become temporary and is melting, I think it's ridiculous to try to blame the scientists. If anyone is to blame it's the people who continue to ignore climate change. Whether or not water is doing damage, the much larger, scarier prospect is that Svalbard's thawing.
StWils
More to the point, not only is Svalbard warming but there may not be a good place left to build a second vault as a plan B. Incidentally, I think it was never a good idea to have just ONE vault. It does not seem like a good idea to put a second vault someplace where the door instructions should be written in Russian or Mandarin.
Dan Lewis
I thought such poor planning was solely the realm of the Americans. Way to go, Norway. Looks like further research is required. Lol.