May 22, 2017

Extreme weather and a thawing Arctic has flooded the global seed vault

Svalbard and Jan Mayen
Hilary Beaumont

The Global Seed Vault, which has been called “the Noah’s Ark of plant diversity,” has flooded after the permafrost around it thawed.

The frozen safe house, designed to protect the seeds of tens of thousands of food crops from global disaster, opened in 2008 in Svalbard, Norway. The vault hold seeds from every country in the world to safeguard agriculture against man-made or natural disaster.


Across the Arctic, signs of a warming climate are striking. From Siberia to Norway to Canada, the permafrost, which is ground that is frozen year round, is collapsing. And as the permafrost thaws, it is releasing methane and carbon dioxide — potent greenhouse gases that scientists warn will accelerate climate change.