Along the path to climate change, countries will drown (and are drowning right now) and towns and cities built near oceans and lakes may too. The relentless advance of Devils Lake on the small North Dakota town of Minnewaukan is one example: It’s been like watching a science fiction movie in slow motion.

The lake is the monster that won’t stop growing, devouring and destroying everything in its path. The small town of about 300, once eight miles away from the lake’s western shore, is now threatened by rising water that’s literally on the doorstep (we’ll see a lot more of this in the future!)

Geography expert Christina Cummings is measuring the lake’s relentless rise. She says, “The ultimate goal is to produce a series of maps to assist local officials in the decision-making process with the rising lake levels. My maps show the locations of buildings that will be submerged or damaged and the estimated building damage loss.” Meanwhile, Devils Lake continues to rise. Cummings’ maps provide local officials with a clear view of the future if the lake goes from its current level of 1,452 feet above sea level to 1,460 feet. Her goal is to help the townspeople make important decisions about their future. Should the town or parts of it be relocated? How much can realistically be saved from flooding? Should a property owner take a FEMA buyout if available? These are the decisions that many other municipalities will be faced with eventually.

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