PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- NASA is using its technology to track wildfires across the globe.

"From NASA's unique vantage point in space, we've got more than 20 unique satellite instruments that are observing the earth," said Douglas Morton, a NASA scientist.

Those satellites can spot and track fires, helping crews on the ground.

[WATCH: How it works]

"The data from those satellites go from satellite to smartphone in a matter of minutes. And the information is spread out rapidly to fire managers, not just in the United States, but around the world," Morton said.

And while NASA tracks the fire, the agency also keeps tabs on smoke. Satellites, aircraft, and even a van full of instruments are used to monitor smoke levels.

"To capture the characteristics of the smoke close to where the fire's burning and how the smoke changes as it ages as it blows," Morton said.

It's an important mission, one that's becoming even more critical as Earth's climate continues to change.

"Our planet is warming," Morton said. "In fact, we've just come off the warmest global temperatures ever recorded in the month of July. And that heat is fueling the risk of larger, more intense wildfires."

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona wildfires]

NASA hopes its efforts will lead to better data about these growing fires, and, in turn, will be able to help the people who might be affected.

"The circumstances of our changing planet feed back directly to the people who are directly in harm's way at that wildland-urban interface," Morton said.

 


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