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California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. yesterday declared this week as "Wildfire Awareness Week" in recognition of last week's devastating fires northwest of Los Angeles. His proclamation noted, "In an average year, wildfires burn 900,000 acres of California's timber and grasslands." Rains that moved into the area on Monday helped extinguish the fires that started last Thursday along US Route 101 near Camarillo Springs and Thousand Oaks, endangering some 4,000 homes. -- Lloyd Young ( 31 photos total)
A man on a rooftop looks at approaching flames as the Springs Fire continues to grow on May 3 near Camarillo, Calif. The wildfire has spread to more than 18,000 acres on day two and is 20 percent contained. (David Mcnew/Getty Images)     

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In the fall of 2012, the Mars Curiosity Rover—after years of travel—finally reached its destination, touching down on the Red Planet and transmitting back to Earth a series of strange landscapes of the planet’s surface. Here on Earth, the scenery sometimes resembled the barren Martian terrain, as wildfires, droughts and natural disasters shaped the landscapes of Earth. Climate change, too, had a say on Earth’s canvas—bringing a cold snap to Europe, a dusting of snow to the Middle East and a super-powered hurricane to the East Coast of the United States.

But as much as natural phenomena shaped Earth’s landscapes, humans forced their intentions upon Earth as well. Wars in the DRC and Syria reduced entire city structures to rubble. Careless chemical spills dyed our waters strange and unnatural colors, and continued deforestation in Brazil’s rainforests left huge swathes arid and bare. And finally, large-scale accidents remind us of man’s hubris, like the Costa Concordia in Italy— it’s abandoned carcass standing as a monument to man’s recklessness.

Here, TIME looks back on the byproducts of man’s folly and nature’s fury in a gallery of the year’s strange and surreal landscapes.

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Tropical Storm Lee passed near Texas over the weekend, bringing its strong winds to the state, but none of its much-needed rain. The strong gusts fanned some 60 separate wildfires across the drought-stricken region, destroying more than 1,000 homes, forcing more than 5,000 people to evacuate, and killing at least two people. Especially hard-hit has been Bastrop County, about 25 miles from the city of Austin, where a 30,000 acre fire still burns uncontained. Collected here are some of the scenes from around Texas, where residents continue to struggle with a long drought and wildfires that have burned 3.6 million acres since November 2010. See earlier entry Texas Wildfires, from April, 2011. [39 photos]

Flames engulf a road near Bastrop State Park as a wildfire burns out of control near Bastrop, Texas, on September 5, 2011. (Reuters/Mike Stone)

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A vast wildfire, measuring half the size of the state of Rhode Island and described as the second worst fire in Arizona history, continues to surge across eastern Arizona. The fire has jumped past firefighter's containment lines to reach the edges of residential areas, prompting more evacuation orders. Winds carrying burning embers continue to ignite smaller fires, causing new concerns about the prospect of extinguishing the 13-day-old fire. The Wallow Fire has destroyed approximately 337,000 acres and threatens main electrical lines that supply power as far away as west Texas. Thousands have evacuated. Paula Nelson (35 photos total)
Smoke from the Wallow Fire covers highway 60 in Springerville, Arizona. Several mountain communities have emptied in advance of the fire, and a utility that supplies power to customers in southern New Mexico and west Texas issued warnings of possible power interruptions due to the fire's spread, June 9, 2011. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

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A wildfire believed to have been sparked by inattentive campers continues to burn, largely out of control, for its 12th day in eastern Arizona. The Wallow Fire now ranks as the state's second largest wildfire on record -- it has already left 600 square miles of pine forest blackened near the New Mexico border and driven thousands of residents from their homes. Although more than 2,000 firefighters are working to control the blaze, it still is classified as "zero percent contained" and currently threatens large power lines that supply electricity to three states. These images show some of the scenes taking place around eastern Arizona as residents and firefighters cope with the disaster. [36 photos]

Robert Joseph, 64, rides his ATV as smoke plumes from the Wallow fire fill the sky in Luna, New Mexico, on Monday, June 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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