The difference between the day and the night is disappearing in the most densely populated areas of the Earth, a quick shift with intense reactions for human health and the environment, according to the latest paper published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. The data shows that Earth’s nights are getting brighter, and artificially lit outdoor surfaces growing at a speed of 2.2% per year from 2012 to 2016. The discovery, described in the journal Science Advances, tracks what scientists called a nerve-racking trend that has consequences for the environment and human health.
Light pollution is even worse than that, according to the German-led team, because the sensor used cannot detect some of the LED lightings that are becoming more widespread, specifically blue light. Journal editor Kip Hodges said in a teleconference on the paper’s findings that “We are losing more and more of the night on a planetary scale.”
Much of the increase is concentrated in the Middle East and Asia. The observed decrease in Western Australia is due to wildfires in 2012 that were visible from the space. Experts also stated that is a problem because nighttime lights are known to disturb our body clocks and raise the possibility of severe diseases diabetes, cancer and depression. While for animals, these lights can kill them whether by enchanting insects or disorienting sea turtles or migrating birds.
The lead author Chris Kyba, a physicist at the German Research Center for Geosciences, explained that the concern is not just the Light Emitting Diodes themselves, which are more energy-saving because they need far less electricity to supply the exact amount of light. According to the paper “In the near term, it appears that artificial light emission into the environment will continue to grow, further crumbling Earth’s remaining land area that experiences organic day-night light cycles.”
Nighttime lighting only started becoming broad about 100 years ago, meaning we have just a little idea how humans or other species adapt to it at an evolutionary level. Franz Holker, one of the paper’s authors, said that “Artificial light at night is a very new stressor.” “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.” This whole study was based on the radiometer designed especially for nightlights, called the VIIRS (Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite). Scientists only analysed nighttime lights during this October, to avoid any increase from holiday lights.
Franz Holker, an ecologist at the Leibniz Institute said the data is revealing quite a severe problem. Many people are still using light at night without really thinking about the cost. Seeing the big picture from above, he also added that this report completely changed how I use light at night. Experts stated that the solution includes utilising lower intensity lights, turning off lights when people leave an area and opting LED lights that are yellow instead of blue or violet since these tend to be the most dangerous to animals and humans.
People also need to raise a question that their hypothesis, for instance, that night lights make the world safer.