"Doomsday" Vault Flooded After Permafrost Melts Due To Climate Change

It didn't reach the seeds, which are stored further down and at -18degC.

Still, the leak itself was enough for many articles and commenters to question the vault's engineering - which won a national award when it opened - with readers in particular offering it up as an example of the lunacy of climate scientists and Scandinavian politicians. Motion detectors are set up around the site and seed boxes are scanned before placing in the vault. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Nobel Peace Prize winning environmentalist Wangari Matai will be among the personalities present at the inauguration of the vault, which has been carved into the permafrost of a remote Arctic mountain, just some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the North Pole.

According to reports in foreign media, the melting of the permafrost (frozen rock or soil) resulted in a sudden upsurge in water levels that gushed into the tunnel entrance of the vault. It was created to be "a fail-safe seed storage facility, built to stand the test of time-and the challenge of natural or man-made disasters".

Currently, the vault holds almost 900,000 seed samples, from maize and sorghum from Africa and Asia to barley and eggplant from Europe and South America.

Even if all the ice caps melted, the seed vault would be totally fine, Fowler said. The vault contains nearly half a billion seeds which represent around 880,000 different crops. As global warming accelerated in recent decades, the Arctic warmed faster than the rest of the planet, and that trend is expected to continue.

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But Cary Fowler, one of the seed vault's creators, said it's not unusual for water to breach the facility's entrance, in an interview with Popular Science.

No seeds were damaged but the facility is to have new waterproof walls in the tunnel and drainage ditches outside. The vault contains more than 4,000 plant species from around the world, which sit sealed in chambers chilled to around zero degrees Fahrenheit.

"We have to listen to climate experts (and) we are prepared to do anything to protect the seed vault", she added. As it turns out, there's really nothing to worry about, as "flooding" may have been an exaggerated term to use to refer to the event, which actually happens every year around the vault. It is a big responsibility and we take it very seriously.

"This is a seed collection, but more importantly it is a collection of the traits found within the seeds: the genes that give one variety resistance to a particular pest and another variety tolerance for hot, dry weather", said the American Scientist in a 2016 report. It's the ultimate failsafe if the world's farms burn or diseases decimate our staples and we have to start over.

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