Quantcast

'We Can't Trust the Permafrost Anymore': Doomsday Vault at Risk in Norway

Climate
Dusk at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Frode Bjorshol / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Eoin Higgins

Just over a decade after it first opened, the world's "doomsday vault" of seeds is imperiled by climate change as the polar region where it's located warms faster than any other area on the planet.


The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which opened in late February 2008, was built by the organization Crop Trust and the Norwegian government on the island of Svalbard next to the northernmost town in the world with more than 1,000 residents, Longyearbyen.

"Svalbard is the ultimate failsafe for biodiversity of crops," said Crop Trust executive director Marie Haga.

Northern temperatures and environment on the island were a major reason for the construction. According to in-depth reporting from CNN, the project planners hoped that the permafrost around the construction of the underground vault would, in time, refreeze. But the planet has other plans.

Longyearbyen and, by extension, the vault, is warming more rapidly than the rest of the planet. That's because the polar regions of Earth—the coldest areas on the planet—are less able to reflect sunlight away from the polar seas due to disappearing ice and snow cover.

It's an ironic turn of events for the creators of the vault, who chose the location for the vault "because the area is not prone to volcanoes or earthquakes, while the Norwegian political system is also extremely stable,'" said CNN.

Because of the warming, the permafrost around the underground vault's tunnel entrance has not refrozen. That led to leaking water in the tunnel in October 2016, which then froze into ice.

In response, CNN reported, "Statsbygg [the Norwegian state agency in charge of real estate] undertook 100 million Norwegian krone ($11.7 million) of reconstruction work, more than double the original cost of the structure."

But the warming now may become unsustainable for the structure. It's already forcing changes to Longyearbyen's population of 2,144 as the people in the town find themselves scrambling to avoid avalanches and deal with a changing climate that's more often dumping rain rather than snow.

"We can't trust the permafrost anymore," said Statsbygg communications manager Hege Njaa Aschim.

British advocacy group Global Citizen was more to the point.

"Not good," the group tweeted.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

"Take the pledge today." Screenshot / StopFoodWasteDay.com

Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.

Stop Food Waste Day is an initiative of food service company Compass Group. It was launched first in the U.S, in 2017 and went global the year after, making today it's second worldwide celebration.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Berries are among the healthiest foods you can eat.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Flames and smoke are seen billowing from the roof at Notre-Dame Cathedral on April 15 in Paris, France. Veronique de Viguerie / Getty Images

When Paris's Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.

Read More Show Less
An artist's impression of NASA's InSight lander on Mars. NASA / JPL-CALTECH

Scientists have likely detected a so-called marsquake — an earthquake on Mars — for the first time, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Hero Images / Getty Images

Across the political aisle, a majority of American parents support teaching climate change in schools even though most teachers currently do not.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Priit Siimon / flickr / cc

By Andrea Germanos

Lawyer and visionary thinker Polly Higgins, who campaigned for ecocide to be internationally recognized as a crime on par with genocide and war crimes, died Sunday at the age of 50.

She had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer last month and given just weeks to live.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

An E. coli outbreak linked to ground beef has spread to 10 states and infected at least 156 people, CNN reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
The Anopheles stephensi mosquito, which carries malaria. CDC / Jim Gathany

The world's first malaria vaccine was launched in Malawi on Tuesday, NPR reported. It's an important day in health history. Not only is it the first malaria vaccine, it's the first vaccine to target any human parasite.

Read More Show Less