Posted by: Timothy Ellis (The Tim)

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

36 responses to “Thousands of Seattle Homes to End Up Literally Underwater”

  1. pfft

    As I’ve said before, real estate prices and buyers are going to have to incorporate climate into the equation.

    what is a house worth if it will be nearly underwater in 25 years?

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  2. softwarengineer

    Actually Predicting Ocean Rising is Inexact per National Geographic

    It may be that bad in your childrens’ lifetime, maybe much worse.

    “…Most predictions say the warming of the planet will continue and likely will accelerate. Oceans will likely continue to rise as well, but predicting the amount is an inexact science. A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, push sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London and Los Angeles….”

    http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-sea-level-rise/

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  3. Brad

    The Ballard locks maintain a 22 foot differential between sea level and the levels of Lakes Union and Washington, so I don’t see how even 12 feet of sea level rise will cause them to become “saltwater bays”?

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  4. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Brad @ 3 – Wouldn’t that depend on how close to the top of the locks the current high tide gets? Also, I would assume the current locks might need some redesign to deal with an extra 10′ of water. It’s even possible surrounding areas might need to be built up.

    The history of the lowering of Lake Washington is rather interesting, but factually and legally. A lot of the land was platted before the lake was lowered.

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  5. mike

    At least it will get rid of those coal trains running through my neighborhood.

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  6. Dave

    Having friends at the University who warned me years ago of the “imminent rise in water level” I checked my properties elevation before I bought it.

    http://www.daftlogic.com/sandbox-google-maps-find-altitude.htm

    Forewarned is forearmed.

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  7. boater

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 5
    If anything the workload on the locks would go down. The greater the height differential the more potential energy the locks have to hold back. The lake is the high side so raising the sound side reduces the load on the locks.

    Glad I live 50′ above lake Washington.

    Given the damage that would do I’d be willing to bet they try to lock the whole Puget sound inlet. Not sure it could be done given the depth but it would become worth exploring.

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  8. Blurtman

    This is great news! Less housing stock means higher surviving home prices. As Napa becomes a desert, Walla Walla becomes the New Napa. And folks with a lake view are now lakefront.

    Win! Win! Win!

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  9. whatsmyname

    Two words, and one of them is “the”: The Netherlands. Some 20% of the land is below sea level, and they’ve been reclaiming land from the sea since the 16th century.

    I do like your simulation, though.

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  10. ira Sacharoff

    By Blurtman @ 9:

    This is great news! Less housing stock means higher surviving home prices. As Napa becomes a desert, Walla Walla becomes the New Napa. And folks with a lake view are now lakefront.

    Win! Win! Win!

    Skyway is the new Kirkland.

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  11. Eastsider

    Washington becomes the next California! Seattle -> San Francisco and Vancouver -> Los Angeles.

    I will be moving to Alaska ;)

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  12. Scotsman

    This assumes the entire area isn’t first wiped out by earthquake or volcanic eruption. So many disasters, so little time.

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  13. Kary L. Krismer

    By boater @ 8:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 5
    If anything the workload on the locks would go down. The greater the height differential the more potential energy the locks have to hold back. The lake is the high side so raising the sound side reduces the load on the locks.

    Could be. I haven’t been to the locks for years and was assuming that the current extreme high tide is close to or above what the current extreme low level is for the lake. That assumption was based in part on the data above suggesting that the lake would rise from a 10′ increase in sea level. Per Wikipedia the lake is about 16′ above the mean tide, but I wasn’t able to find data on the height from extreme high tides. (The record high tide was over 15′, but I don’t know if that’s 15 feet above the mean tide. I’ve not spent a lot of time around salt water.)

    One thing I did find though that I didn’t know is that Lake Washington prior to being lowered drained through the south end, into a now disappeared river called the Black River which drained into the Duwamish River. That raises at least some possibility that salt water could enter from that end again with a sufficient rise in sea level.

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  14. Kary L. Krismer

    FWIW, I played with the sea level simulator above and they show Lake Washington being affected at 9 feet, but not at all at 8 feet. So it’s possible they are dealing with extreme high tides overwhelming the locks. (Although if it’s only high tides the entire lake would not rise to that level in such a short time.)

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  15. Lo Ball Jones

    You have to ask…at what point do the brainiacs at Goldman-Sachs start believing this stuff and making their bets accordingly.

    If true, that coastal properties will be under 3m of sea rise within 80 years, then those properties are essentially worthless. So, someone would have a bet somewhere. Alternatively, prices would certainly not be rising and perhaps falling as the gradual awareness of the inevitable takes hold.

    All kinds of long term infrastructure planning would change focus. You would not be building tunnels of any sort for example.

    Are these things happening? I am not seeing it.

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  16. drshort

    By Lo Ball Jones @ 16:

    You have to ask…at what point do the brainiacs at Goldman-Sachs start believing this stuff and making their bets accordingly.

    They’re already placing bets on natural disasters via catastrophe bonds. Generally, the time horizon of one of these is too short for something as long term as sea level change, but it’s in the ballpark.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catastrophe_bond

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  17. Blurtman

    RE: Lo Ball Jones @ 16 – Say, didn’t those “Braniacs” have their errand boy arrange a bailout for GS? I seem to remember something like that…

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  18. Erik

    I have heard so much crap about the ozone layer, the techtonic plates, the y2k bug, the Mayan Calendar and now the polar ice caps. This is not my problem and it will not affect me. I don’t think it really will happen. The “experts” have been wrong every other time. I don’t see them suddenly being right.

    Give me a discount on some waterfront property then. I will take it because I know this will never happen.

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  19. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: Lo Ball Jones @ 16 – Eighty years is a long time for real estate. An 80 year lease of real property would probably cost you pretty close to the FMV of that property.

    Also, the idea that climate change is irreversible is pretty much nonsense. One or two historic volcanic eruptions and we’ll probably all be thankful that we spewed so much carbon into the air so that temperatures only dropped 5 degrees. ;-)

    http://www.wired.com/2013/06/local-and-global-impacts-1793-laki-eruption-iceland/

    BTW, I recently learned from the folks over at the Puget Sound Seismic Network that Wired is a good source for geological news. The author of this piece is highly respected in the scientific community.

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  20. SaffyThePook

    Seriously, Kary? The last time we were at 400ppm atmospheric CO2 was about 4 million years ago. I’d rather not wait that long for the ecosystem to reset.

    And Erik, the ozone hole was (is) real and its anthropogenic increase was stopped by banning CFCs. The Y2K bug was also real but was dealt with in time via a massive re-programming effort. The tectonic plates drive the very serious earthquakes we have in the region but if you choose not to keep emergency supplies on-hand because you “don’t believe in them”, that’s up to you. As for the Mayan calendar, you got me there. I traded everything I owned for gold coins and ammo in anticipation, but I’m sure they’ll come in handy some day.

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  21. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: SaffyThePook @ 21 – I didn’t say global warming wasn’t real, only that it wasn’t irreversible. I’m in the camp that believes it’s at least partially caused by the activities of man (as opposed to just being part of a natural cycle), but I still think things could happen that reverse it, such as a huge volcanic event or even a huge asteroid.

    Also, I don’t know how old you are, but the Y2K bug was greatly over-hyped. Yes a lot of programming was required to fix prior lazy programming, but despite all that the news media and software companies were still warning of dire results. Part of that is because that’s what the news media does (scares people) and part of that is because it helped sell software. So I can see why he would mention that. I would agree with you on the ozone hole and tectonic plates.

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  22. SaffyThePook

    Kary, I didn’t say you didn’t say it wasn’t real ;o) I understand your take but what I’m saying is that it took 4 million years of volcanoes erupting and asteroids hitting to get the prior 400ppm level down to where it was at the beginning of industrial revolution. Could it happen more quickly with a humdinger of an event going forward? Sure, but we’ve got 4 million years of history showing that it’s pretty unlikely within our lifetimes or those of our kids. In fact, it didn’t happen previously over the history of our entire species. That said, if you lengthen the time scale 100X, the climate has changed quickly and radically at least five times. Unfortunately, each of those instances have also involved global mass extinction, so it’s a baby-with-the-bathwater kind of situation. I’d say we’re better off just trying to put the brakes on it now.

    As for Y2K, I’m old enough to have written some of that lazy code ;o). There’s no doubt that it was massively over-hyped by the media long after industry and government had ameliorated the issue. That said, if nothing had been done to fix it, it would’ve been a very serious problem.

    My point is that the media is the media and they’re going to do their fear-mongering thing no matter what the issue. It’s up to us to think critically and sift the crazy hype (Mayan calendar) from the justified hype (climate change).

    Anyway, to get this back on topic, I do think climate change will have repercussions for property values in our lifetimes, probably even within the next decade. It’s not that the sea level will rise enough to drown the current waterfront, it’s the increase in statistical variability of weather intensity. What used to be a 100 year storm will soon be a 20 year storm, if it’s not already. If you live on the shore, in a flood plain, near a slide zone, etc, expect stricter building codes, higher insurance premiums, and more frequent property damage.

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  23. pfft

    Climate change is already here. My brother sent me a picture from California of a fire that was only about a mile from his house.

    Studies: Wildfires worse due to global warming
    http://news.yahoo.com/studies-wildfires-worse-due-global-warming-161202463.html

    The economic effects are real. my brother had to come home early and pack. His wife needed to be at work just in case. All of that costs time and money. They were packed up and almost had to evacuate. Which costs money of course. Imagine those poor people who lost their homes or that person who lost his life.

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  24. Blurtman

    RE: Erik @ 19 – Erik, I drove by the Juanita Pub last night on my way to the nearby Cafe Juanita. It looked like a nice place, likely populated by locals medicating away their despair over living in condo hell.

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  25. Justin

    RE: Lo Ball Jones @ 16 – Like the tunnel currently being dug beneath Seattle……

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  26. wreckingbull

    I’m not so sure I agree with Brad. The 22-foot figure applies to a low tide. At high tide, you might be at about a 10-foot differential, and thus have saltwater intrusion.

    The reason this came to mind is that I have transited many times at high tide, and there is no way it is a 22 foot rise into the ship canal. I think your original post was correct. It might not be enough to make much of a difference, but technically, there would be times when saltwater would breach the locks into the ship canal.

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  27. Erik

    RE: Blurtman @ 25
    Not a bad place at all. I lived up on 100th for those 2 years I owned that condo. I would walk to Juanita Pub occasionally and get blasted and walk home. It was generally a good time. Now I have 9 million unmarked bills and Norm’s only steps away from my doorstep. The barrel thief is a great place too. You can get a flight of whiskey, rum, vodka or whatever you want and the bartender tells you about the history of the booze and the differences. Great place. I like to go to Norms cause it is cheap and I like the people in there. I think I need either another remodel to keep me occupied.

    Also Blurtman, I learned that I can borrow a lot more money than I thought I could. I was told I could borrow 417k with no problem and more than that could get tricky. Maybe it’s because I got all that casheroo from my last remodel, so they let me borrow more? The point of me saying this is that if you find another good deal in your neck of the woods for me to remodel, let me know. I may be able to get the money to borrow it. I did miss that last one you showed me. If I could of pulled the trigger on that, I totally would have. I think I could have made atleast $150k on that one.

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  28. Erik

    From the map, it appears north Everett will be cleansed naturally with salt water. Maybe that’s why Everett always say they are going to fix up the waterfront or fix up Broadway and never do? Maybe they know Everett will be underwater anyway, so they aren’t ever going to fix it up?

    The last big thing I remember that was going to happen to Everett was that the University of Washington was going to put a campus in Everett. Yet again, another lie. Again, could be because they know it will be underwater soon anyway.

    Does anyone know what is going on with the Kimberly-Clark mill? I vote they turn it into a drug rehabilitation center or a prison and get some of those meth heads that walk up and down Broadway off the streets.

    Just looked it up… they are turning it into a shipyard and provide a whopping 250 jobs.

    http://myeverettnews.com/2013/10/02/kimberly-clark-site-everett-waterfront-sold-owners-foss-maritime/

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  29. Ira Sacharoff

    RE: Erik @ 28
    Norm’s is a great place. Very good happy hour prices, and dog friendly. What more could you want?

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  30. Jason

    RE: Brad @ 3 – I work at the locks and we routinely have high tides of 12 and occasionally 14.5 feet. The top of the gates are only slightly higher than 22 feet above mean low water also called sea level. Once more than 6 feet of sea level rise occurs salt water will intrude into the ship canal. Of course if the Seattle fault has its overdue 7.0, the locks will drop one or two feet along with everything else north of the fault line and accelerate the process.

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  31. Erik

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 30
    I am only moving because my rent is doubling. Love living next to norms. I wouldn’t say I am a huge pet lover, but I like the relaxed atmosphere the pets bring.

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  32. Erik

    RE: Ira Sacharoff @ 30
    I am only moving because my rent is doubling. Love living next to norms. I wouldn’t say I am a huge pet lover, but I like the relaxed atmosphere the pets bring.

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  33. wreckingbull

    RE: Jason @ 31 – Sounds like a cool job. I love telling visitors that the locks don’t need any power source to raise the water for boats coming entering the ship canal. They think about it, then have a light bulb go off in their head.

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  34. justaguy

    When this story ran in the Times and on King5.com last week, the author of the study also include the projection that a 12 foot rise would flood PIke Place Market and much of downtown.

    Have to taken a look at the Elliott Bay views from the market and Steinbruck Park? The market sits easily 100″ above the waterfront, as does most of the downtown core and Belltown. Oops……

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  35. Smith

    RE: Blurtman @ 9 – what have you been smoking? Walla Walla is a chocolate hole next to napa.

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