Global warming is putting Earth’s doomsday vault at risk. New research from Norway suggests that rising temperatures could melt the ice on the island where the Global Seed Vault is located, potentially endangering seed samples from around the world.
The seed vault, which is capable of preserving 2.5 billion samples, is located near the Arctic on an island called Svalbard. The Norwegian government manages the island with help from the Nordic Genetic Resource Center and Crop Trust. Frigid temperatures in the Arctic help preserve the seed samples, which is why rising temperatures are a major concern for the long-term viability of the project.
According to Gizmodo, Svalbard has experienced a rise in temperature by 5 degrees Celsius since statistics were first gathered in 1971. Scientists estimate that temperatures will continue to increase over the next 80 years and could be as much as 10 degrees Celsius higher than current readings. Such a significant change would also disrupt nearby glaciers, sea ice and permafrost.
The surrounding landscape, including the permafrost, plays a critical part in keeping the doomsday vault at a chilling -18 degrees Celsius, or 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the permafrost starts thawing, it makes it more difficult to maintain the vault’s desired temperature, which is a serious concern for investors.
Rising temperatures have already cost the organizations who run the vault millions of dollars. Several years ago, permafrost on the island started thawing out, which led to widespread flooding. This forced investors to drop millions in updates and renovations, just to keep up with climate change.
Although the vault was recently upgraded, experts do not believe it can handle another 10-degree rise in temperatures on the island. If carbon emissions are lowered over the next half-century, however, scientists believe the islands will only witness about a 7 degree change, which is still a concern but slightly more manageable.
Image via Bjoertvedt