The Home of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault Just Had Its Hottest Day Ever

Frode Ramone, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Frode Ramone, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0 / Frode Ramone, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is one of the most secure places on Earth. Embedded deep inside an Arctic mountain, it holds roughly 1 million seed samples that can be accessed only in emergencies. But its remote location can't protect it from one of its biggest threats: rising temperatures above the Arctic Circle.

As Life in Norway reports, the Svalbard archipelago recorded its hottest day ever on July 25, 2020, when temperatures exceeded 71°F. It beat the long-standing record of 70.3°F., which was logged in 1979. The islands lie about 700 miles south of the North Pole.

A rapidly changing climate could spell disaster for the seed vault. The vault acts as a reserve for the world's crops. If a catastrophe—such as war or famine—wipes out a specific plant species, the facility ensures it isn't lost for good. The resource was used as intended for the first time in 2015 in light of the Syrian civil war. But if the vault itself is vulnerable to destruction, then it can't fulfill its mission.

Unusually warm weather in the Arctic threatens to melt the permafrost that's stayed frozen beneath the surface for centuries. When this happened in Svalbard in 2016, the underground facility flooded. Thankfully no seed samples were damaged in the event.

The seed vault has been renovated since the flood, but the latest temperature record shows that climate change is still a problem for the site. As temperatures rise around the world, the vault's function becomes more than important than ever; climate change is one of the catastrophes facing the same crops the Svalbard Seed Vault was built to protect.

[h/t Life in Norway]