Light pollution increasing around globe
Light pollution increasing around globe Earth’s night lights as observed in 2016. (NASA )
Light pollution increasing around globe
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The world's nights are getting brighter. That's bad news for all sorts of creatures. That includes humans.

A German-led team reported last Wednesday that light pollution is threatening darkness almost everywhere. Satellite observations during five Octobers show Earth's artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2 percent a year from 2012 to 2016. So did nighttime brightness.

Light pollution is actually worse than that. That's according to the researchers. Their measurements coincide with a change in outdoor light. The switch is to energy-efficient and cost-saving light-emitting diodes. These are known as LEDs. The imaging sensor on the polar-orbiting weather satellite can't detect the LED-generated color blue. That's why some light is missed.

The observations, for example, indicate stable levels of night light in some places. This includes the United States. It includes the Netherlands. It includes Spain. And it includes Italy. But light pollution is almost certainly on the rise in those countries given this elusive blue light. That's according to Christopher Kyba. He is part of the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences. He is also the lead author of the study published in Science Advances.

Also on the rise is the spread of light into the hinterlands and overall increased use. The findings shatter the long-held notion. The belief was that more energy efficient lighting would decrease usage on the global - or at least a national - scale.

"Honestly, I had thought and assumed and hoped that with LEDs we were turning the corner. There's also a lot more awareness of light pollution." That's what he told reporters by phone from Potsdam. "It is quite disappointing."

The biological impact from surging artificial light is also significant. That's according to the researchers.

People's sleep can be marred. This can affect their health. The migration and reproduction of birds can be disrupted. It also disrupted fish. It disrupted amphibians. It disrupted insects. And it disrupted bats. Plants can have abnormally extended growing periods. And forget about seeing stars or the Milky Way. That's if the trend continues.

About the only places with dramatic declines in night light were in areas of conflict like Syria and Yemen, the researchers found. Australia also reported a noticeable drop.  But that's because wildfires were raging early in the study. Researchers were unable to filter out the bright burning light.

For the most part, three places saw a surge in artificial night lighting. Those included Asia. It included Africa. And it included South America. 

More and more places are installing outdoor lighting. That is due to its low cost and the overall growth in communities' wealth, the scientists noted. Urban sprawl is also moving towns farther out. The outskirts of major cities in developing nations are brightening quite rapidly.

Other especially bright hot spots: sprawling greenhouses in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

Photos taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station also illuminate the growing problem.

Franz Holker is a co-author of the study. He says things are at the critical point. He is with the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries. It is in Berlin. 

"Many people are using light at night without really thinking about the cost," Holker said. Not just the economic cost, "but also the cost that you have to pay from an ecological, environmental perspective."

Kyba and his colleagues recommend avoiding glaring lamps whenever possible. They recommend choosing amber over so-called white LEDs. They also recommend using more efficient ways to illuminate places like parking lots or city streets. For example, dim, closely spaced lights tend to provide better visibility than bright lights that are more spread out.

The International Dark-Sky Association has been highlighting the hazards of artificial night light for decades. It is based in Tucson, Arizona. 

"We hope that the results further sound the alarm about the many unintended consequences of the unchecked use of artificial light at night." That's according to Director J. Scott Feierabend.

An instrument on the 2011-launched U.S. weather satellite, Suomi, provided the observations for this study. A second such instrument was launched on a new satellite. It is known as the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS. It was launched by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This latest VIIRS will join the continuing night light study.

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Why is this a bigger issue in some places, but not all places?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • MinaM-
    2/26/2018 - 08:41 a.m.

    In my oppinion i think light is better than the dark so i think its good that light is taking over the world!

  • ImtiazA-
    2/26/2018 - 08:46 a.m.

    light is good i think? (-_-)

  • PaulK-2
    2/26/2018 - 10:31 a.m.

    This is VARY VARY VARY scary for not just us but for the animals because they wont be able to sleep or hunt.

  • SydneyG-6
    2/26/2018 - 10:34 a.m.

    Nights are getting lighter, and that disturbs many animals. It also effects our sleep.

  • SpenceH-
    2/26/2018 - 10:36 a.m.

    I think that light pollution is a very serious cause but the problem is irrelivent so people will not notice this problem.Light polution will afect all sorts of animals including humans.

  • KeatonG-
    2/26/2018 - 10:42 a.m.

    Light pollution is an ever growing event that disrupts wild life like fish,Bats,and insects

  • KarleeN-
    2/26/2018 - 10:42 a.m.

    Is the world even supposed to get brighter?Is it good for the world to be brighter?

  • AvaA-3
    2/26/2018 - 10:43 a.m.

    the thing i liked most about this text was that it gave me a lot of imfromation. for example like that when we cause light ploution, that we are causing the animals to not sleep, or travel . And when we leave the lights on for even a second we are add money to the bill that our family has to pay !

  • AudreyT-2
    2/26/2018 - 10:46 a.m.

    in my opinion I didn't really like this text because it just wasn't the type of thing I like to read. and it was complicated for me to read. and it kind of scares me because the part of it that I understood was about us having too much light in the night but I guess some people like this kind of stuff.

  • FadiM-
    2/26/2018 - 10:50 a.m.

    because not all places have the same rules and some places dont wana do this or that because they have freedom like U.S.A but Iraq has no rules and no freedom.

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