BILLINGS, Mont.-- Scientists in Montana, Colorado and Idaho are conducting a $3.85 million research project into how a changing climate will influence wildfires.

Work started Wednesday on the project, which is being pursued in partnership with scientists in Australia and New Zealand.

Montana State University professor Cathy Whitlock says the goal is to identify how wildfires are driven by human activities and climate change.

Whitlock says the frequency and severity of wildfires have increased around the world in recent years. Warmer temperatures can dry out forests and encourage the proliferation of beetles and other pests that kill trees, creating fuel for more intense fires.

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