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Author Topic: Seed Bank Vault Flooding  (Read 2335 times)

Ninebelowzero

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Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« on: May 20, 2017, 06:51:15 PM »

prokaryotes

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Re: Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2017, 07:06:33 PM »
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Andre

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Re: Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2017, 09:07:59 PM »
More reporting about it in the Guardian as well: (crossposting from What's new in the Arctic thread)



Arctic stronghold of world’s seeds flooded after permafrost melts

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/19/arctic-stronghold-of-worlds-seeds-flooded-after-permafrost-melts

Abstract:
"It was designed as an impregnable deep-freeze to protect the world’s most precious seeds from any global disaster and ensure humanity’s food supply forever. But the Global Seed Vault, buried in a mountain deep inside the Arctic circle, has been breached after global warming produced extraordinary temperatures over the winter, sending meltwater gushing into the entrance tunnel.

The vault is on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen and contains almost a million packets of seeds, each a variety of an important food crop. When it was opened in 2008, the deep permafrost through which the vault was sunk was expected to provide “failsafe” protection against “the challenge of natural or man-made disasters”.

But 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. “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault."

gerontocrat

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Re: Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2017, 11:18:15 AM »
"It was not in our plans to think".

The vault was designed to last forever, and not to need human intervention to keep it safe.
But Svalbard is a place at the leading edge of climate change, and where changes are well recorded.
In theory planning such a facility, especially given its function, needed to include assuming at least a "business as usual" climate scenario to 2100.
The event was caused by extremely high temperatures. But those temperatures will likely be common within a decade or two.

The depressing conclusion is that even an environmentally aware Norwegian Government is not building climate change sufficiently into certain key decisions.
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Andreas T

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Re: Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2017, 12:07:50 PM »
My conclusion is that you are not reading this thoroughly enough. There is no suggestion that the permafrost is melting deep underground in Svalbard anytime soon. What has been at fault is the construction of the entrance which looks like it was designed by an architect to give it a "cool" look. Unexpected, unusual because of the warming climate, rain entered the former mine. Quite possibly the time of year combined runoff hampered by freezing or snow, directing water into openings which were not designed with that possiblity in mind.
That the Guardian takes this as an opportunity to draw attention to changing climate is understandable but I find it depressing when this gets hyped in the way any message gets pushed with little care for details. lets care more about facts and details on this forum.
Making concerns heard is ok, but shouting is no substitute for getting your message right.

johnm33

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Re: Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2017, 01:31:34 PM »
I've heard of this place before but always assumed it was designed and built with some foresight. I'm incredulous that anyone could go to all this effort to build something so close to sea level for a start, I could but won't go on.

crandles

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Re: Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2017, 02:54:09 PM »
Quote
Elevation   130 m (430 ft)

All ice on planet could raise sea levels by 70m but then thermal expansion could take that to nearly? double that height. So maybe it is a bit low. Relocating it once per 1000 years or simply saying it has a design life of 1000 years might be enough to consider it safe from SLR? With say 10m of sea level rise per century, how long before the permafrost is in danger? 500 years maybe? Even so, I would have thought they would have found a higher safer place.

They just haven't got around to making the entrance safer until now (was it always planned to be done at some stage?) but the media isn't going to let that spoil a potential story does seem the likely explanation.

Darvince

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Re: Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2017, 01:10:33 PM »
Even if the source of the global abyssal water changed from near-freezing briny water from sea ice to highly saline water sinking in the hottest waters of the world after global warming (Red Sea, Gulf of California, Persian Gulf), thermal expansion would only raise sea levels by 15-18 meters, assuming a global average ocean depth of 3800 meters. Estimates for the total rise from all glacial ice melting range from 63 to 69 meters. So we arrive at a total of 78 to 87 meters of sea level rise once global warming is all over. However, this is complicated because water has weight, so isostatic readjustment due to the weight of the sea water sitting atop what used to be land would be a maximum of 26 meters, and a minimum of 17 meters, and likely depress the land resting above the seas resting on slopes by some amount less than that.

Calcs used:
http://www.csgnetwork.com/h2odenscalc.html
http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/~mhagdorn/glide/glide-doc/glimmer_htmlse12.html
http://www.wolframalpha.com/

crandles

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Re: Seed Bank Vault Flooding
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2017, 07:15:09 PM »
 “It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that,” said Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault.

But Lo, update via Daring Fireball: “Looks like The Guardian might have shamelessly sensationalized this story. Mary Beth Griggs, reporting for Popular Science”:
http://www.popsci.com/seed-vault-flooding?src=SOC&dom=tw#page-3

DF quotes – “any water that floods into the tunnel has to make it 100 meters downhill, then back uphill, then overwhelm the pumping systems, and then manage not to freeze at well-below-freezing temperatures” [before getting to the seed bank]