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Episode 2: Ice Cyrstal Light Beams. Light Pollution News.
Light pollution is drowning the starry night sky faster than thought, Joshua Sokol of Science.
“The Problem is worse than we believed,” says John Barentine, an independent dark sky researcher based in Arizona who didn’t participate in the study.
Researchers use a satellite imaging system known as the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) to identify and chart the progress of nighttime lighting brightness on the environment. In 2017, data derived from VIIRS led them to calculate that light pollution was growing at a rate of 2% per year. However, the VIIRS is unable to identify blue wavelengths most commonly associated with modern day LED fixtures, leading researchers to believe that the 2% is an undercount.
To fix this, Christopher Kyba, a German physicist, teamed up with the Globe at Night, a citizen science project where individuals can report the number of stars they see at night from their location. It is now estimated that skyglow has been increasing at 6.5% to 10.4% per year in Europe and North America.
“It’s pretty shocking,” Kyba says.
Per the article, I quote, “Despite warnings about light pollution, communities have continued to add artificial lighting. “You put together cheap lighting and fear of the dark…and people are not choosing preservation of darkness.”
Red Lighting could rewild night skies plagued by light pollution, Sasa Woodruff of Boise State Public Radio.
Part of an excellent ‘After Dark’ series by Boise State Public Radio. I highly recommend you take a listen.
Jesse Barber of Boise State University studies how light at night affects animals and insects. According to Barber, the brain utilizes blue light to control and signal animal and human circadian rhythms. While Barber works with many different animals, he has a particular fondness for bats as they represent a prime example of how light pollution affects vertebrates. Some bats avoid lights and others are attracted to the insects pooling around lights. Such bats tend to exhaust themselves and become quick fodder to bat hunting animals. At a small scale, Barber points out, that recent studies confirm that non-red outdoor lighting is connected to insect decline. Red light, however, is less perceivable to animals and insects, and thus can provide an ecological solution for outdoor lighting.
Light Pollution is killing desert rodents, Judy Siegel Itzkovich of the Jerusalem Post.
Light pollution has been tied to the decline in two types of desert rodents (mice in particular) according to the School of Zoology at Tel Aviv University. Researchers tested 96 mice for 10 months in an outdoor lab subjecting them to low intensity exterior lighting with a variety of wavelengths (colors). Researchers conducted this experiment twice in two years, expecting the mice to live out to their average span of four to five years. Quoting from the article, “On two unrelated occasions, in two different enclosures exposed to white light, all animals died within several days.” Absent other genetic or environmental issues, it’s believed that the white lights, of modest intensity, left them with reduced protection against an unidentified pathogen. Other studies involving these mice found that artificial light at night disrupted the reproduction cycles, as these mice began to breed not in optimal summer conditions, but year round, providing added stress and mortality to the species. Further, as if that isn’t enough, cortisol levels in mice appeared to rise when exposed to blue light and lower when exposed to white light.
Why Falling Asleep with the Lights on is bad for your Health, Richard Sima of the Washington Post.
In a 2022 study by Phyllis Zee of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinburg School of Medicine, it was found that sleeping in light increased an individual’s insulin resistance and kept an individual’s heart rate high the entire night. The study included 20 healthy, presumed to be, college aged individuals who reportedly slept great under overhead lights emitting a glow equivalent to a hotel hallway lighting. Per the article, “Bright but not sufficient for comfortable reading.”
Zee believes this study reveals that the human brain actually becomes aware of relatively low light, and somehow ties this together to its fight or flight system. In another 2022 study, Zee found that any light increased the prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. This particular study on young people is surmised to have a much greater impact as one ages.
Lastly, it should be noted, per the article, that “light does not need to appear blue to contain short-wavelength light. Classic LEDs appear white, for example, but contain a lot of short-wavelength light. As Christine Blume of the Centre for Chronobiology at the University of Basel states, “[short wave lighting] is very effective at telling our biological clock It’s not yet time to sleep.” Further surmising that such circadian disruptions could lead to mood disorders, cognitive impairments, metabolic issues, and cancer risks.
Yellow Off-Road Lights work. Here’s Why, Jonathon Klein of the Drive.
This is an interesting article that I decided to include because it shows at a very practical level, how light color affects our day to day lives.
Jonathan Klein takes on the question of why off roading vehicles use yellow lights rather than white. What he finds is that warmer fog lights present a distinct advantage when driving through precipitation, including rain, fog, or snow. This is due to our biology.
The eye is built of two kinds of photoreceptors, rods, and cones. During the daytime, we use our cones and at night (when it is actually dark – lacking artificial light), we use our rods. Rods are more sensitive to motion, which the article includes as “blowing snowflakes, fog, and raindrops.”
While both white and yellow light will scatter equally in precipitation events, our eyes will be drawn more to the rain, fog, or snow particles due to our rods’ natural attraction to blue-green peaks. Using warmer light reduces distraction and allows the driver to better assess the circumstances.
Friday Freezing rain sends street light beams shooting into the sky, Central Oregon Daily.
Residents in Central Oregon were treated to a very modern unique sky phenomenon, light beams. Light beams shot upward to the clouds, deriving from street lights, as ice crystals caused refraction spikes. It appears to have been met with excitement and glee by many in Central Oregon, perhaps as a quite surreal example of modern day human impacts on the nighttime environment.
Urban light pollution is a danger for marine ecosystems, Tim Smyth of the Conversation.
Preliminary research by Tim Smythe of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory identified that light pollution affects 1.9M square kilometers of the world’s seas, approximately 3.1% of global economic zones, impacting at a depth of 1 meter into the sea. Such light impacts at 6x the intensity of moonlight. Smythe and the team have just started their research, so they have yet to identify any biological impacts. However, previous studies observed much in line with terrestrial studies – whereby exposure to artificial light interferes with the reproductive cycles of fish, can interfere with turtle hatchlings’ ability to reach the ocean safely, and that zooplankton, a key part of the marine food chain, move away from the light of ships at depth of around 200 meters.
Boulder City aims to reduce light pollution and increase dark skies tourism in Nevada, Shannon Miller of Las Vegas Weekly.
Boulder City, NV is looking to capitalize on dark sky tourism, a rather new type of tourism derived from our inability to see the milky way, or even the stars, anywhere remotely close to where most of us live. By utilizing $1.9M from the US Economic Development Administration, the city plans to update its lights in a way conducive to protecting wildlife and saving energy. Boulder City is aiming to be the first town in Nevada that obtains an “IDA Dark Sky Community.” This falls in line with how Boulder City views itself, as a gateway town to Lake Mead and other outdoor recreational opportunities. Most importantly, the enhanced lighting hopes to showcase the natural beauty, historical character, and safety.
State assemblymember Alex Lee of San Jose is back at it. If you recall, last episode, California Governor Gavin Newsome vetoed a law that would implement rather modest updates on state owned buildings under the guise of fiscal constraints, and also the long told tale of “security and crime prevention concerns.” However, the initial bill, AB 2382, carved out exceptions for prisons, first responders, and “buildings concerned with vandalism.”
The current provisions in the newly proposed AB 38 do appear to provide one notable exception for billboard lighting. To date, there has been no movement on this bill, which was proposed in December of 2022. The previous bill, AB 2382, obtained bipartisan support. Much in line with the previous bill, this bill would promote the use of energy saving motion activated lighting and reduce exterior lighting by 50% after 11pm.
In Texas Hill Country, darkness enlightens and inspires, Henry Gass of the Christian Science Monitor.
We’re going to close out with some inspiration tonight. The Hill Country of Central Texas is currently experiencing growth but wants to retain some of what provides its charm. Home to some of the most protected night skies in the US, the City of Blanco, Texas became the fifth “dark sky community” designation from the international dark sky association.
“A lot of people assume we’re just asking people to turn their lights off and live in darkness, and that’s just not the truth,” says Mr. Hummel, who spearheads the Dark Skies Initiative for McDonald Observatory.
“To an oil and gas company, it does make sense for them to adopt a night sky friendly lighting strategy,” he adds. “It saves them money, it’s better for workplace safety, and it’s better for the health of their workers.”
For leaders in the Hill Country, opting for warmer lighting, rather than the deliriously 4000 – 5000K temperatures, make it as bright as humanly possible world we’re used to here in Philadelphia, provides opportunity to protect the beauty of the area without compromising on safety and security. In the end, the city of Blanco hopes to preserve its dark skies as places of curiosity and solace for future generations
The Best Hotels in the US for Stargazing, Erika Mailman of Timeout.
Looking for a good spot to sleep under the stars. Erika Mailman of Timeout identifies a few places that offer a great spot to bask in the beauty of the night sky.
How about the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge? A 1934 rustic lodge in Michigan with dining onsite. You can take part in moonlit snowshoe hikes, night sky photography workshops, new moon parties, rent telescopes, and more! You may even be able to see the Northern Lights from Keweenaw!
Other places include Greenville, Maine, and Scottsdale, Arizona, a dark sky community. Something to check out. As always, the Light Pollution News podcast receives no fiduciary impact from discussing any articles. If we did, we’d probably be a bit more financially sustainable than we currently are.
Outdoor artificial light at night and human health: A review of epidemiological studies, multiple authors, Journal of Environmental Research.
Authors undertook a non-systematic review of 51 epidemiological studies linking outdoor artificial light at night to disease occurrence in humans in published articles since 2009. The studies included work on “incidence of breast cancer, other cancers, sleep and circadian rhythm disorders, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, mental disorders, infectious diseases, and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.” The authors conclude that overall, there appears to be a link between ALAN and human health. However, the effect that the link can be teased out appears to be lacking. The authors found many of the papers lacked light at night measurements, including wavelength considerations and additional external factors. In the end, simply, more detailed and holistic research is needed to present a more effective link.
Afraid of the Dark Article of the Month: Are Your Street Lights Out? Here’s why so many LA streets are dark, Christine Richer of NBC Los Angeles.
Copper thieves have decimated LA street lighting, reducing the city’s lighting by 7,000 street fixtures. LA is trying to fix the outages but currently doesn’t have the capital to put new ones up.
This story, by NBC Los Angeles, fits the bill for classic fear mongering. As started, it centers around a man, Robert saw thieves attempting to steal a catalytic converter from his truck parked on a North Hollywood street. For which, of course, he blames the lack of street lighting to have created an opportunity for someone to take it.
On the flipside, his neighbor Ginny Seiden, is worried about walking at night due to a low vision issue she has.