Rise in energy-saving LED lighting has increased light pollution

Rise in energy-saving LED lighting has increased light pollution

Rise in energy-saving LED lighting has increased light pollution

"We're losing more and more of the night on a planetary scale", journal editor Kip Hodges said in a teleconference on the paper's findings.

The thinking of the global group of researchers, led by Luis Guanter of GFZ, the German Research Centre for Geosciences, in Potsdam, is that although LED lights are more efficient requiring far less electricity to provide the same amount of light, people tend to install more and more lights in a behavior called the "rebound effect". Utilizing the first fine-tuned satellite radiometer for night lights, which can decipher brightness, a team of scientists discovered a 2.2% raise in the Earth's exterior artificial lighting each year between 2012 and 2016. The effects are largely unknown, but one recent study found that low intensity light reduced the population of pea aphids by preventing flowering in one of their key sources of food.

"In the near term, it appears that artificial light emission into the environment will continue to increase, further eroding Earth's remaining land area that experiences natural day-night light cycles", the paper concludes. "We hope that the results further sound the alarm about the many unintended consequences of the unchecked use of artificial light at night".

The fastest growth took place in countries in developing regions, such as Asia, Africa and South America.

Kyba and his colleagues recommend avoiding glaring lamps whenever possible - choosing amber over so-called white LEDs - and using more efficient ways to illuminate places like parking lots or city streets. Some sections have showcased a balanced development in light pollution affiliated with economic development, but more progressive countries that seem to get dark by interchanging to energy-saving LEDs showed no obvious decrease in their rates of light pollution. On top of that, the outdoor areas that already had been lit when the study started in 2012 also brightened by 2.2 percent per year. Declines in lighting were rare, but were noticeable in war-affected countries such as Syria and Yemen.

The world is getting brighter, but scientists say that may not be a good thing. These included some of the world's brightest such as Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the United States, although the researchers said the satellite sensor's "blindness" to some LED light may mask an actual increase.

That's because many well-lit cities have been replacing yellow-orange sodium lights with energy-saving LED lights. The combination of losing the infrared signal and not being able to see the blue wavelengths means that imaging radiometer registers these areas as dimmer, even though they may be brighter than they were before.

Increases in nighttime light pollution were seen nearly everywhere researchers looked, with some of the largest gains in regions that were previously unlit.

People's sleep can be marred, which in turn can affect their health.

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