America’s National Park Service (NPS) celebrates its 100th birthday on Aug. 25. From Aug. 25 to Aug. 28, parks across the country will be offering free entry, along with everything from solar-powered vehicle races to classical music performances to outdoor naturalization ceremonies.
Famously called “the best idea we ever had” by writer Wallace Stegner, the NPS was founded in 1916 by an act of Congress in order to conserve and protect America’s natural wonders. Today, the NPS oversees over 84 million acres, which were visited by over 300 million people last year.
NASA’s Earth Observatory has been collecting satellite images of these national treasures for years, as part of its earth science mission. NASA has established the Landscape Climate Change Vulnerability Project as a way to use the data being collected by satellites to help the parks adapt to climate change.
“In many cases, National Parks were created to protect the remaining forests and their ecosystems from further destruction and fragmentation,” writes NASA’s Kathryn Hansen. "But changes in temperature, rainfall (or snow), and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide could eventually do as much to remake the forests as humans did with saws and fires and bulldozers.”