Melting Permafrost Threatens ‘Doomsday Vault’

By Carmarlena Murdaca

Journalists gather near the entrance to the Global Seed Vault in Longyearbyen February 25, 2008. The vault has been built in a mountainside cavern on Spitsbergen Island around 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole to store the world's crop seeds in case of disaster. The official opening will take place February 26.   REUTERS/Bob Strong (NORWAY) - RTR1XK1N
Journalists gather near the entrance to the Global Seed Vault in Longyearbyen February 25, 2008. The vault has been built in a mountainside cavern on Spitsbergen Island around 1,000 km (600 miles) from the North Pole to store the world's crop seeds in case of disaster. The official opening will take place February 26. REUTERS/Bob Strong (NORWAY) - RTR1XK1N

There are new fears the Arctic ‘Doomsday Vault’ may not be exempt from the threats of climate change after 2016’s record global temperatures saw meltwater flood the gene bank’s entrance.

According to The Guardian, last year was the hottest on record globally, with warmer winter temperatures in the Arctic causing rainfalls and melting. The Global Seed Vault, located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, holds millions of seed samples of some of the world’s most vital food sources. Created in 2008, it serves as an insurance policy for our survival, safeguarding against wars or natural disasters wiping out global food crops.

Whilst the seeds require temperatures below -18 degrees Celsius, in February, Spitsbergen recorded winter temperatures as high as 6.8C. The Norwegian Government admitted warming temperatures around the vault had not been properly considered. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” Here Njaa Aschim from Public Construction and Property agency said. “A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in.”

Ms Aschim said, in addition to a research project to monitor the permafrost, other measures were being taken to prevent water entering the vault. “Removing heat sources, creating draining ditches to prevent water accumulating around the access tunnel,” she added. A waterproof wall would also be constructed inside the tunnel for additional protection.

 

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