Liberal Journos Uncritically Echo Reports Global Warming Flooded The World ‘Doomsday’ Vault

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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Several media outlets are reporting the world’s largest repository of seeds, acting as a “backstop” against global catastrophe, has been compromised by global warming.

Well, the news turned out to be little more than media hype. Here’s why.

The left-leaning Guardian was the first to report the Global Seed Vault located in the Svalbard archipelago was “breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.”

Vox and Wired echoed the Guardian’s reporting. Vox reported the Norwegian designers of the seed vault that was supposed to operate without human assistance for “eternity” had met its match from “floods linked to climate change.”

But the media should have done a little more footwork when reporting on the flooding. It turns out the vault regularly floods, as its designers anticipated.

The Guardian claimed “soaring temperatures in the Arctic at the end of the world’s hottest ever recorded year led to melting and heavy rain, when light snow should have been falling.” The paper quoted Norwegian officials who were scrambling to address the flooding.

“A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in,” a Norwegian official told the Guardian, adding that no frozen water made it to where the seeds are stored.

The Guardian claimed the flooding “impregnable” vault’s 300-foot entrance tunnel due to melting permafrost “questioned the ability of the vault to survive as a lifeline for humanity if catastrophe strikes.”

There’s only one problem — the vault floods almost every year.

Popular Science spoke to Cary Fowler, one of the vault’s designers, who told them “[f]looding is probably not quite the right word to use in this case.”

“In my experience, there’s been water intrusion at the front of the tunnel every single year,” Fowler said.

Fowler explained the tunnel was built along a mountain slope, and at the base two pumping stations remove water that gets into the entrance — the entrance was not made to be watertight.

“The tunnel was never meant to be watertight at the front, because we didn’t think we would need that,” Fowler said. “What happens is, in the summer the permafrost melts, and some water comes in, and when it comes in, it freezes. It doesn’t typically go very far.”

In fact, building the tunnel itself made the surrounding permafrost more vulnerable to melting. Permafrost is sensitive to temperature spikes and artificial developments. Designers have to be careful when building in the Arctic because permafrost melt can make buildings unstable.

Even if all the ice caps melted, the seed vault would be totally fine, Fowler said.

“We did this calculation; if all the ice in the world melted — Greenland, Arctic, Antarctic, everything — and then we had the world’s largest recorded tsunami right in front of the seed vault. So, very high sea levels and the world’s largest Tsunami. What would happen to the seed vault?” Fowler said.

“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,” Fowler said.

The Norwegian government opened the seed vault in 2008 as a “backstop” against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters.” The vault contains more than 4,000 plant species from around the world, which sit sealed in chambers chilled to around zero degrees Fahrenheit.

The seed vault, also referred to as the “doomsday” vault, is built 400 feet into a mountain slope in Spitsbergen island. Currently, there are between 800,000 and 900,000 seed samples in the vault.

(Ironically, global warming was one of the threats the Norwegians wanted to hedge against. So, they put it in a region scientists say will warm faster than the rest of the world. But that questionable decision is a topic for another time.)

Before Popular Mechanics spoke to one of the vault’s designers, meteorologist Ryan Maue pointed out some huge problems with The Guardian’s narrative.

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