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Hotter, Drier Conditions Fueling Wildfires From Alaska To New Mexico

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJZ) -- Scorched earth. That's what new images from NASA satellites are showing across the world.

Hotter, drier conditions are fueling more wildfires.

Mary Bubala reports scientists are worried about the future.

Destructive wildfires are burning across southern California, with winds pushing the flames into timber dry woodlands. Hundreds flee as fire consumes their businesses and their homes.

Extended periods of triple digit temperatures and very dry conditions have fueled wildfires from Alaska to New Mexico.

It's something NASA has had its eye on all summer long with dramatic satellite images.

"We are living in a warmer world and a drier world. And when we have a drier world, there are areas more susceptible to fire," said Chris Justice, University of Maryland College Park.

NASA scientists say wildfires follow a simple but dangerous combination--hotter, drier conditions plus more people in the world equals a greater likelihood that there will be more ferocious wildfires threatening lives and property.

NASA projections show the fire threat in 1990 through today and up to the year 2100.

"The areas in red are areas across North America and the United States that we think are going to be more prone to fire over time. You can see there are areas that you are used to having fire in like Alaska, the western United States," said Dr. Michelle Thaller, NASA. "But look at the Midwest, the Great Plains. These are areas that we normally don't think of as being particularly wildfire prone. But our models suggest that will be happening more often in the future."

NASA's fleet of satellites has been keeping a close eye on fires from space, giving free, real-time data to those fighting the fires below.

"Actually text, text information to people on the ground as to where the fires are in remote areas," said Justice.

Just this summer alone, more than 870 homes have been destroyed by wildfires across the U.S.

Officials say California may see its worst fire season this year in more than a century.

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