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NASA examines escalating wildfires, projects worse conditions by century's end

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In June, the Black Forest wildfire in Colorado wiped out 500 homes in 48 hours and ultimately took two lives. Yet the catastrophe actually ranked as one of the smaller fires authorities have had to contend with this year. 100,000-acre wildfires have become a yearly occurrence — a worrying development in and of itself — and now NASA is raising warning flags about where things may be headed. Fire seasons starting earlier and continuing later into the fall make for a dangerous combination, according to the agency. "Over the last 30 years we have seen an increase in hot and dry conditions that promote fire activity," said Doug Morton, a scientist at Goddard Space Flight Center. Last week, NASA released new animations projecting how dry conditions may worsen in the decades ahead, leading to greater risk of fire across the Great Plains and upper midwest US. These are areas that haven't typically faced the crisis, and NASA says even worse conditions await the Mountain West and other regions where fires already burn. The data is sourced from NASA's own instruments and extensive knowledge of fire distribution across the planet.