Warming Trend Prompts Action at 'Doomsday' VaultS. Himmelstein | May 22, 2017
The world’s largest collection of crop diversity is contained in a global seed repository in Norway. Currently, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault holds more than 880,000 samples, originating from almost every country in the world. The facility is designed to safeguard as much unique crop genetic material as possible and can store up to 2.5 billion seeds.
Freezing temperatures in the 'Doomsday' vault, located inside a mountain on a remote Arctic island in a Norwegian archipelago, keep the seeds, sealed in packages and stored on shelves, usable for a long period of time. Permafrost and thick rock should guarantee the seeds are frozen and secured for centuries.
However, 2016 has proven to be the warmest year on record, and in October melting permafrost caused water to leak about 15 meters (49 feet) into the entrance of a 100-meter tunnel inside the vault. No damage was caused to the seeds, which remain safe inside the vault at the required storage temperature of -18 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).
In response to the leak, vault managers are now constructing a waterproof wall inside for additional protection, and all heat sources would also be removed from inside the vault.
The Svalbard vault was opened in 2008 with the aim to provide a "fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters," according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust.