With that in mind, Statsbygg stresses that the seeds themselves have “never been threatened.” The mountainside that holds the seeds themselves will keep its permafrost — the builders just hadn’t expected that the permafrost near the entrance would refuse to re-freeze after a decade since construction. Vault co-creator Cary Fowler tells Popular Science that the seeds would be safe in a “worst case scenario” where a pump failure or extreme water levels were problems. The water would have to go uphill and somehow avoid freezing in bitterly cold (around 0F) temperatures.
Humanity will still have access to the seeds in case of disaster, then. The bigger worry is simply that the vault keepers have to seriously consider water in the first place. Svalbard is supposed to be relatively immune to the effects of a warming planet, at just 620 miles from the North Pole — that it isn’t is worrying, even if the practical risk is low.