The Global Seed Vault, also popularly known as the Doomsday Vault, which has been specifically built to secure a million packets of the world's most precious seeds from all natural and man-made calamities has been breached. High temperatures this winter resulted meltwater entering the tunnel at the entrance of the vault.
Buried under a deep mountain the Arctic Circle and situated in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the vault is a lifeline for humanity if any catastrophe hits Earth. As the vault is sunk in deep permafrost, it was believed that it would be protected against disasters.
But warming temperatures and heavy rain this water have been so strong that parts of the facility near its entrance have been flooded.
However, no seed deposit has been harmed due to the recent flooding as water did not reach the inner chambers of the vault.
"It was not in our plans to think that the permafrost would not be there and that it would experience extreme weather like that," Hege Njaa Aschim, from the Norwegian government, which owns the vault and is responsible for its maintenance, told the Guardian. "The water ran into the start of the vault's tunnel, then froze - it was like a glacier when you went in," he added.
The ice has been chipped out, but the vault is now being monitored more closely.
Cary Fowler, who helped create the seed vault, said flooding would not be the right term to use as melting ice in summers always results in permafrost melts. Because the seed vault is uphill from the entrance it would take much, much more water to overwhelm the seeds but the large amount of meltwater this season was unexpected.
"There's been water intrusion at the front of the tunnel every single year," Fowler told Popular Science. "But they need to study where the water is coming in and the amounts to figure out what the situation is....This whole planet is warming, and that includes Svalbard."