Municipalities, enterprises, and households are switching to LED lights in order to save energy. But these savings might be lost if their neighbours install new or brighter lamps. Scientists fear that this "rebound effect" might partially or totally cancel out the savings of individual lighting retrofit projects, and make skies over cities considerably brighter. An international study led by Christopher Kyba from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geoscience lends proof to this hypothesis.
According to the paper in Science Advances, the artificially lit surface of Earth at night increased in radiance and extent over the past four years by 2 per cent annually. The scientists used data from the first-ever calibrated satellite radiometer designed especially for nightlights (VIIRS for Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite). The VIIRS Day-Night Band is mounted on the NOAA satellite Suomi–NPP and has been circling our planet since October 2011. Their time series comprises the years 2012 to 2016.
Photograph of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, taken from the International Space Station on December 23, 2010. Residential areas are mainly lit by orange sodium lamps. (Image: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Kyba, GFZ)
Globally, the increase in light emission closely corresponds to the increase of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with the fastest growth occuring in developing countries. “What’s more, we actually see only part of the light increase”, says Christopher Kyba whose research is done both at GFZ and the Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries IGB.
Comparisons of the VIIRS data with photographs taken from aboard the International Space Station ISS show that the instrument on Suomi-NPP sometimes records a dimming of some cities even though these cities are in fact the same in brightness or even more brightly lit. The reason for this is that sensor can’t “see” light at wavelengths below 500 nanometres (nm), i.e. blue light.
When cities replace orange lamps with white LED lights that emit considerable radiation below 500 nm, VIIRS mistakes the change for a decrease. In short: The Earth’s night-time surface brightness and especially the skyglow over cities is increasing, probably even in the cases where the satellite detects less radiation.
There is, however, hope that things will change for the better. Christopher Kyba says: “Other studies and the experience of cities like Tucson, Arizona, show that well designed LED lamps allow a two-third or more decrease of light emission without any noticeable effect for human perception.”
Kyba’s earlier work has shown that the light emission per capita in the United States of America is 3 to 5 times higher than that in Germany. Kyba sees this as a sign that prosperity, safety, and security can be achieved with conservative light use. “There is a potential for the solid state lighting revolution to save energy and reduce light pollution,” adds Kyba, “but only if we don’t spend the savings on new light”.
Study: Christopher C. M. Kyba, Theres Kuester, Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel, Kimberly Baugh, Andreas Jechow, Franz Hölker, Jonathan Bennie, Christopher D. Elvidge, Kevin J. Gaston, Luis Guanter: Artificially lit surface of Earth at night increasing in radiance and extent, Science Advances, 2017. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701528
Related images in high resolution and a GIF can be found here:
Caption: Photograph of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, taken from the International Space Station on December 23, 2010. Residential areas are mainly lit by orange sodium lamps. (Image: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Kyba, GFZ)
Caption: Photograph of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, taken from the International Space Station on November 27, 2015. Many areas on the outskirts are newly lit compared to 2010, and many neighborhoods have switched from orange sodium lamps to white LED lamps. (Image: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Kyba, GFZ)
Caption: Animation of lighting change in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, from 2010-2015, based on photographs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station. Many areas on the outskirts are newly lit compared to 2010, and many neighborhoods have switched from orange sodium lamps to white LED lamps. (Credit: NASA’s Earth Observatory/Kyba, GFZ)
Christopher Kyba (Physicist, lead author)
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences
Phone (Germany): +49 331 288 28973
(English & German)
Franz Hölker (Ecologist)
Leibniz Institute for Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries IGB
Phone (Germany): +49 30 64181 665
(German & English)
Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel (Physicist)
University of Exeter
Phone (Spain):+34 619358685
(Spanish & English)
Prof Kevin J. Gaston (Founding Director of the Environment and Sustainability Institute)
Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter
Phone (UK): (+44) (0)7825 904805
Kimberly Baugh (Satellite imagery)
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES)
University of Colorado Boulder
Phone (USA): +1 303-497-4452
Christopher Elvidge (Satellite imagery)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Phone (USA): +1 303-497-6121
Ralf Nestler | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Six-decade-old space mystery solved with shoebox-sized satellite called a CubeSat
15.12.2017 | National Science Foundation
NSF-funded researchers find that ice sheet is dynamic and has repeatedly grown and shrunk
15.12.2017 | National Science Foundation
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Trade Fair News
15.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
15.12.2017 | Information Technology