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The Doomsday Vault

(thespaceacademy.org), 02/11/2019

The Norwegian Island of Spitsbergen, part of the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, is home to the Global Seed Vault where duplicate samples and spare copies of important seeds are stored.  

The vault, also called the Doomsday Vault, is an attempt to guarantee the seeds are safe even after large-scale or even global catastrophes.

The seeds are kept at -18°C (-0.4°F) with minimum access to oxygen in order to delay aging as much as possible. One of the failsafes in the event electricity were to cease is the surrounding permafrost, the frozen soil common in such northern territories. However, a new report by the Norwegian Government shows that the Svalbard Islands are facing significant changes due to global warming.

By the last quarter of the century, the report expects air temperatures on the islands to increase by about 10°C (18°F ) if there’s only a minimum curbing of gas emissions and by about 7°C (13°F ) if there is a more significant cut of greenhouse gases. The increase in heat will lead to a thawing of the permafrost, which will turn the solid ground around the facility into mush, likely liberating more methane and carbon dioxide currently frozen in the soil. A few years ago, the thawing permafrost put the vault in jeopardy by flooding it.

 
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