Study finds light pollution is spreading

Terry Joseph
November 26, 2017

The Earth's surface is almost ten per cent brighter than it was four years as artificial light is turned up and introduced to new areas.

Artificial lights are growing brighter every year and it spells bad news for us all, scientists say. Concerning creatures, these lights are able to slaughter - whether by drawing in creepy crawlies or muddling relocating fowls or ocean turtles.

"We can say with fairly high confidence even though we didn't measure in the satellite an increase in these countries, they are almost certainly increasing in brightness in terms of how human beings would perceive the light", says Kyba.

The observations, for example, indicate stable levels of night light in the United States, Netherlands, Spain and Italy. Declines in lighting were rare, but were noticeable in war-affected countries such as Syria and Yemen.

This light pollution can have serious consequences for living things, which have evolved in accordance with a natural day-night cycle, where the only major sources of light at night would have been the moon or more intermittent sources such as volcanoes, lightning, wildfires or auroras.

The findings, described in the journal Science Advances, track what researchers called a worrisome trend that has implications for the environment as well as human health.

The Arizona-based International Dark-Sky Association's executive director J. Scott Feierabend said the study "validates the message IDA has communicated for years" about the hazards of artificial night lights. Light pollution has been shown to threaten 30% of nocturnal vertebrates and 60% of nocturnal invertebrates plus it affects plants and microorganisms.

"We'll light something that we didn't light before, like a bicycle path through a park or a section of highway leading outside of town that in the past wasn't lit", said Christopher Kyba, the study's lead author. "The issue is that light has been introduced in places, times and intensities at which it does not naturally occur and for many organisms, there is no chance to adapt to this new stressor".

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Humans are impacted by artificial light too because there are certain physiological processes that happen during the day and certain ones that happen at night - and they often work against each other, Holker said.

Shanghai, the most populous city in the world! They make the nighttime side of our planet look nearly like a black-and-white map. The white-toned LED lights have more blue wavelengths, which VIIRS can not see. "And in fact, the true increase that a human being would perceive is actually larger than what we report here".

To be exact, this owes to what the researchers call a "rebound effect". The problem is this also made lighting cheaper.

GREENFIELDBOYCE: Kyba says what he'd like to see is more well-designed lighting that lets people on the ground feel comfortable and safe without needlessly lighting up the night sky.

Worldwide there has been thrust towards more power- and cost-effective lighting such as LEDs, but this has instantly bestowed to a shocking expansion in light pollution, the researchers presume.

On a global or national scale, all this wasted light is expensive, he says: "It costs a lot of money to radiate that light into space and it's not doing anybody any good".

There are some possible solutions, Kyba said, such as using LEDs that don't have a blue component.

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