World Don’t panic, humanity’s ‘doomsday’ seed vault is probably still safe

01:50  21 may  2017
01:50  21 may  2017 Source:   MSN

Norway to boost climate change defences of 'doomsday' seed vault

  Norway to boost climate change defences of 'doomsday' seed vault Norway on Saturday said it would boost protection of a seed storage vault designed to protect the world's crops from disaster, after soaring temperatures caused water to leak into its entrance. Load Error Situated deep inside a mountain on a remote Arctic island in a Norwegian archipelago, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, dubbed the "doomsday" vault, is the largest of its kind and can store up to 2.5 billion seeds. Freezing temperatures inside the vault keep the seeds, sealed in packages and stored on shelves, usable for a long period of time.

Journalists gather near the entrance to the Global Seed Vault in Longyearbyen, Norway, on Feb. 25, 2008. (Bob Strong/Reuters). On Friday, a slew of alarming headlines emerged regarding the Svalbard Global Seed Vault .

The Arctic Doomsday Vault in Svalbard receives nearly 50,000 new seed samples, one of the largest deposits since the repository opened nearly 10 years ago.

Journalists gather near the entrance to the Global Seed Vault in Longyearbyen, Norway, on Feb. 25, 2008.© Bob Strong/Reuters Journalists gather near the entrance to the Global Seed Vault in Longyearbyen, Norway, on Feb. 25, 2008.

On Friday, a slew of alarming headlines emerged regarding the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Water had apparently breached this “fail-safe” trove of the planet’s seeds that is supposed to protect earth’s food supply in the event of a “doomsday” scenario.

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The alleged failure of the vault, buried deep into an Arctic mountainside, had occurred after warmer than usual temperatures had caused a layer of permafrost to melt, “sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel” and presumably putting the world’s most diverse collection of crop seeds at risk, according to the Guardian.

Don’t panic, humanity’s ‘doomsday’ seed vault is probably still safe

  Don’t panic, humanity’s ‘doomsday’ seed vault is probably still safe Humanity, on the other hand …

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The vault is designed to protect against global-scale disasters— human or natural—that could potentially wipe out agriculture. »Where is the Doomsday Seed Vault (continued from above). The climate – including that at Svalbard – is probably changing.

“Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts,” the newspaper announced.

“The Arctic Doomsday Seed Vault Flooded. Thanks, Global Warming,” Wired stated.

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Though water did get past the vault’s threshold, none of the seeds had been damaged. But a spokeswoman for Statsbygg — a group that advises the Norwegian government, which owns the vault — cautioned that it might only be a matter of time before they were.

“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,” Statsbygg spokeswoman Hege Njaa Aschim told the Guardian of the water breach. She added that officials were now observing the seed vault around the clock to “minimize all the risks and make sure the seed bank can take care of itself.”

Precious seeds in Norway's 'Doomsday vault' are safe — for now

  Precious seeds in Norway's 'Doomsday vault' are safe — for now The so-called "Doomsday seed vault" deep under a remote mountain in Norway is safe, at least for now, the nation's government said. Melting permafrost late last year sent "meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel," the Guardian said, threatening to flood the precious seeds in what's officially known as the Svalbard Seed Vault. It's known as the "Doomsday" vault because it contains seeds for every crop civilization would need to resume life in the event of a worldwide catastrophe, Weather.com said. The vault keeps seed samples — and duplicate samples — preserved under certain conditions for such an occasion in case it ever happens. The vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples from around the globe, shielding them from climate change, wars, natural disasters and other threats, the Associated Press said. The vault hold the seeds of many tens of thousands of varieties of essential food crops such as beans, wheat and rice. Located 620 miles from the North Pole on the island of Spitsbergen, the vault is the world's largest secure seed storage, opened by the Norwegian government in 2008. From all across the globe, crates of seeds are sent there for safe and secure long-term storage in cold and dry rock vaults, the Norwegian government said. "The building is designed for virtually infinite lifetime," according to the facility's website.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is undeniably fascinating: This concrete slab that juts out of the barren snowscape may represent humanity ’ s last hope in an apocalypse. Because Svalbard’s vault is so inaccessible, scientists cannot test seeds every few years to confirm they are still viable.

It is essentially a huge safety deposit box, holding the world’ s largest collection of agricultural biodiversity.

“The question is whether this is just happening now, or will it escalate?” Aschim asked.

On Saturday, Statsbygg seemed to walk back some of those statements in a statement published on the seed vault’s website. Yes, there had been “season-dependent intrusion of water” into the outer part of the seed vault, but the group was now taking precautionary measures to make improvements to the outer tunnel to prevent future occurrences.

“The seeds in the seed vault have never been threatened and will remain safe during implementation of the measures,” the statement read.

According to the statement, the proposed improvements include removing heat sources (such as a transformer station) from the tunnel, as well as constructing drainage ditches on the mountainside to prevent meltwater from accumulating around the entrance. In addition, waterproof walls would be erected inside the tunnel. Finally, in order to be “better safe than sorry,” Statsbygg says researchers will closely follow the development permafrost on Svalbard.

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The goal of the Svalbard Seed Vault is pretty simple - to keep the vast range of plants on Earth safe in case anything happens in the future. Despite the doomsday nickname, that 'something' doesn' t necessarily have to be a global disaster

some of the seeds are expected to still be viable 20,000 years from now. Show transcript. Formerly known as the Svaldbard Global Seed Vault , the Doomsday Vault it serves as the master backup to the world’ s other seed vaults .

“The seeds are safe and sound,” tweeted the Crop Trust, an international nonprofit group that helped establish the Svalbard vault in 2008.

So which is it? Is the fact that some water seeped into a “fail-safe” vault no big deal? Or are we as a human race doomed to die, starving and cropless, in the event of global catastrophe?

The answer is more measured. Representatives for Statsbygg and Crop Trust did not immediately respond to an emailed interview request Saturday. However, Crop Trust on Saturday twice retweeted a Popular Science article that seemed to indicate the situation was not as dire as had been initially reported.

“In my experience, there’s been water intrusion at the front of the tunnel every single year,” Cary Fowler, an American agriculturist who helped create the seed vault, told the magazine. Though he was not at the vault to observe the incident, he noted that “flooding” was probably not the most accurate word to describe what happened.

“The tunnel was never meant to be watertight at the front, because we didn’t think we would need that,” Fowler told Popular Science. “What happens is, in the summer the permafrost melts, and some water comes in, and when it comes in, it freezes. It doesn’t typically go very far.”

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The facility is supposed to keep these seeds safe for hundreds of years, without human oversight. The “ doomsday ” vault ’ s location — inside a mountain on a Norwegian archipelago — was chosen in part for its cold temperatures.

Scientists add 50,000 seeds to Arctic Doomsday Vault because everything is

However, that doesn’t mean that the underlying cause for the melting permafrost — warming temperatures — should be ignored.

“At the end of the day we have to realize that in a sense, everything is relative with this initiative,” Fowler told the magazine. “This whole planet is warming, and that includes Svalbard.”

Global warming has been particularly noticeable in the Arctic regions, and the melting of permafrost is only one consequence; another includes the melting of major glaciers, which could lead to a dramatic sea-level rise, as The Post’s Chris Mooney reported.

Currently, the vault holds nearly 900,000 seed samples, from maize and sorghum from Africa and Asia to barley and eggplant from Europe and South America. It has the capacity to store up to 4.5 million crop varieties, or about 2.5 billion seeds, according to the vault website.

Inside, imposing concrete walls shelter those seeds at minus-18 degrees Celsius (minus-0.4 degrees Fahrenheit). From the outside, only a portion of the entrance is visible as it juts out at an angle from the snow and ice. It looks like the type of structure you might get if you commissioned I.M. Pei to design an Arctic hideaway for a James Bond film.

When they chose to build the seed vault on Svalbard, the site was chosen for its accessible location, geological stability, low humidity levels and its perch well above sea level. Officials just hadn’t anticipated the permafrost would melt into the entrance.

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A failure at a fail- safe vault . The irony is delicious, but that’ s not the whole story. Read on. Otherwise, there' s no way liquid is getting into the seed bank—so the seeds are probably safe . Meltwater is still worrying, even if it isn’ t an immediate panic -inducing threat. doomsday .

Doomsday vault issues first withdrawal. Why Humanity Needs This Doomsday Seed Vault . If the apocalypse takes place and humans run out of food, what’ s our backup plan?

“There’s no doubt that the permafrost will remain in the mountainside where the seeds are,” Marie Haga, head of Crop Trust, told Reuters. “But we had not expected it to melt around the tunnel.”

For his part, Fowler has always maintained confidence in the seed vault’s ability to endure natural or man-made disasters. In 2015, he told then-Guardian reporter Suzanne Goldberg that perhaps an atomic bomb dropped on top of the mountain would be the only thing that could destroy the vault. Fowler repeated those sentiments to Popular Science on Friday.

“We did this calculation; if all the ice in the world melted — Greenland, Arctic, Antarctic, everything — and then we had the world’s largest recorded tsunami right in front of the seed vault … what would happen to the seed vault?” Fowler told the magazines. “We found that the seed vault was somewhere between a five and seven story building above that point. It might not help the road leading up to the seed vault, but the seeds themselves would be okay.”

In other words, there are no guarantees about humanity in that scenario. But the seed vault is probably going to be fine.

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