Environment

Anti-Doomsday Seed Vault Threatened by Global Warming

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The Global Seed Vault on the island of Spitsbergen in Norway is suppose to protect the food supply from global catastrophe, but the Arctic bunker has partially flooded because of global catastrophe.

Temperatures in the area were 7 degrees above normal during the winter season, causing some of the surrounding permafrost to melt and flood the entrance tunnel.

The vault’s managers are now waiting to see if the extreme heat of this winter was a one-off or will be repeated or even exceeded as climate change heats the planet. [...]

The vault managers are now taking precautions, including major work to waterproof the 100m-long tunnel into the mountain and digging trenches into the mountainside to channel meltwater and rain away. They have also removed electrical equipment from the tunnel that produced some heat and installed pumps in the vault itself in case of a future flood.

It's easy to play armchair quarterback, but it does strike me as a little strange that the vault's designers assumed the permafrost would provide permanent protection for the vault. The vault was built relatively recently in 2008. That was almost 10 years ago, but it's not as if global warming and climate change were not already being widely discussed at the time.

According to The Guardian, the permafrost was suppose to provide "failsafe" protection, but I think we can safely assume extreme heat is not a one-off.

Flooding did not reach the interior of the vault and no seeds were lost.

  • muselet

    This is definitely an oops!

    On the other hand, if (some of) the models are correct, rising temperatures will pour so much fresh water into the North Atlantic that the thermohaline circulation known as the Gulf Stream will shut down and cause rapid and dramatic cooling in Northern Europe. Problem solved. /snark

    –alopecia

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    • ninjaf

      That’s Europe. They appear to be trying to take action. We need this to affect land locked states in “fly over country” here if we want to see anything done about it here. *sigh*

      • muselet

        Alas, true.

        –alopecia