NASA sounds the alarm on fire risks of climate change

The space agency releases an animation that dramatically shows how the risk of fire may increase in North America throughout the century.

The Waldo Canyon Fire in Pike National Forest near Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2012. Claiming about 350 homes, it was the worst fire in Colorado history. Until this summer, that is, when the Black Forest fire wiped out more than 500 homes and killed at least two people. NASA/Don Savage Photography

Much has been said about the danger of increasingly intense hurricanes due to climate change -- a concern that entered the public consciousness in a big way with Katrina's devastation of New Orleans and continued late last year with Hurricane Sandy's ravaging of the Eastern Seaboard.

But swirling storms of wind and water aren't the only hazard. Now NASA is raising the alarm about fire.

The space agency released an animation this week, based on satellite and climate data, that dramatically shows how the risk of fire may increase in North America throughout the century.

With warmer spring temperatures and earlier snow melt, dry conditions are increasing, which means fire seasons are starting earlier and lasting longer, and bigger fires are becoming more common.

"A 100,000-acre wildfire used to be unusual, you would see one every few years," Forest Service employee Carl Albury is quoted as saying in an article on NASA's Web site. "Those type of fires are becoming a yearly occurrence."

Click through the brief slideshow below to check out the animation and learn about NASA's fire-spotting efforts.

About the author

Edward Moyer is an associate editor at CNET News and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch.


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