Over the past few days, reports that the so-called “Doomsday Vault” was flooded had popped up on the internet. Some of these reports had suggested that the structure officially known as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault had failed, despite being described as a “fail-safe seed storage facility” built to last forever, regardless of disaster, natural or man-made alike. 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. And while ice melt from climate change is also a big concern, even the worst-case scenario for ice melt and natural disasters won’t result in the seeds stored in the vault being compromised.
As the Inquisitr had noted in a report yesterday, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a.k.a. the Doomsday Vault, has been around for nine years. The structure essentially serves as a place to keep backup samples of seeds kept in the world’s seed banks, with each seed corresponding to a different staple crop. With this purpose in mind, the structure does live up to its name, as it can preserve crops and refill seed banks regardless of weather events, crop extinction, wars, or other man-made events that could affect crop and/or seed supplies around the world.
As you can see, this vault plays a key role even if not too many people may be familiar with it. But is the Doomsday Vault really flooded due to melted permafrost, as reports have been claiming? A report from Popular Science suggests that there’s nothing to worry about, as it’s merely a case of “water intrusion,” as one of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s creators calls it.
According to the vault’s co-creator Cary Fowler, who spoke to Popular Science shortly after the initial reports went out, publications may have used the wrong term to refer to what happened on Friday. And it’s not an unusual event either, even with climate change threatening to melt the world’s ice.
“In my experience, there’s been water intrusion at the front of the tunnel every single year.”
While Fowler wasn’t present during Friday’s water intrusion event, he spoke from experience as he told PopSci about the Doomsday Vault’s layout, and how it is purposefully designed to protect the nearly one million seed samples kept within it. Based on previous cases of water intrusion, permafrost does tend to melt on a yearly basis, usually in the summer months, and the meltwater that enters the vault turns into ice once in there, not going too far in most cases. However, what if something similar happens in the future?
Fowler added that if the Svalbard Global Seed Vault filled up with too much water, or if the pumping systems designed to purge water from the vault failed, meltwater would likewise freeze before it reaches the seeds themselves. As PopSci explained it, it would be impossibly hard for the Doomsday Vault to be flooded; water that enters through the vault’s 100-meter tunnel will have to go downhill, then uphill, then affect the pumping systems badly enough to shut down, then remain unfrozen despite temperatures that are well below freezing level.
It could be the ultimate form of assurance, or as Gizmodo suggested, it might not matter, as such an assumed event would leave us all dead when it’s all over. But Fowler added that he and his colleagues did some calculations, assuming that all of the world’s ice had melted, while the world is also threatened by the “world’s largest recorded tsunami,” right in front of the Doomsday Vault. Based on those calculations, the seeds will still survive such a catastrophe.
“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 ok.”
Long story short – the Doomsday Vault was never flooded in the truest sense of the word, and we can all rest easy.
[Featured Image by John McConnico/AP Images]