Thousands of Seattle Homes to End Up Literally Underwater

If you followed the news this week, you probably read that the Antarctic ice sheet is has entered an irreversible melting phase, that will eventually lead to its collapse into the ocean and an over ten feet increase in the sea level.

Here’s an excerpt from the Seattle Times article about the melting Antarctic ice sheet:

“A large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into a state of irreversible retreat — it has passed the state of no return,” said Eric Rignot, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

That move by itself could increase sea levels by about 4 feet, Rignot said. But it also will help set in motion other changes that could cause the ice sheet’s contribution to sea-level rise to triple to 12 feet or more.

I was curious how a 12-foot increase in sea level might affect homes around Seattle, so I pulled up the handy Surging Seas simulator by Climate Central. Their simulator only goes up to 10 feet but even at that level you can see that the increasing sea levels will have a dramatic effect on Seattle.

Here are a few highlights:

  • 8,257 homes in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties will be literally underwater
  • Most of the Snohomish River Valley and the Duwamish River Valley will become ocean.
  • Lake Union and Lake Washington would both become saltwater bays.
  • I-5 through Fife would be submerged (along with 30% of the city of Fife)

Although thousands of homes would end up in the Puget Sound in this scenario, that only represents about one percent of all homes in the Seattle area. Still, the overall effects on our area would most likely be quite large.

Thankfully, we’ve got a while to figure out how to handle it (the article estimates 200-1,000 years), but unfortunately, if the scientists are correct, there’s absolutely nothing we can do to stop it.

Bottom line: Buy a waterfront home in the Seattle area for yourself and your kids to enjoy, but don’t count on passing it down to your great-great grandkids.

Apparently the visualization tool at Climate Central fails to properly account for the 20-22 foot differential between the Puget Sound and Lake Union / Lake Washington that is maintained by the Ballard Locks. Thanks to commenter Brad for pointing that out below!

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About 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. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.