A Multimedia Presentation  “LED lights are meant to save energy. They’re creating glaring problems”

A Multimedia Presentation “LED lights are meant to save energy. They’re creating glaring problems”

Photo: National Park Service composite of 47 images

About this multimedia story:

“The National Park Service captured the images showing the night sky and light pollution in Chelan County. To create a full picture of the night sky, NPS stitched together 47 different photographs, a process that can leave seams between individual image, some of which are visible in the images in the story… Evening sounds are from the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division at the National Park Service. Solutions for reducing light pollution are from the National Park Service. LED lights are meant to save energy. They’re creating glaring problems.”

Here’s just a tiny bit of an article that can only be experienced…rather than read.

“As societies developed, stars became less visible on the horizon. In one county in Washington state, the clarity of the night sky was marred by lights radiating upward and obscuring the view. This light pollution would only grow worse…

An unexpected increase in pollution came after Chelan County shifted to LED streetlights, which shine brightly while using less energy than traditional bulbs. One year after the change began, the additional glare masked about half of the previously visible stars. What happened there is not unique.

In recent years, cities, towns and small communities across the world have taken part in a radical revolution — of our lightbulbs. Traditional orange-tinged high-pressure sodium bulbs are being swapped for more energy-efficient, whiter and brighter LED (light-emitting diode) lights. But the rise of LEDs is also illuminating new problems for our night sky, as well as our health.

Over the past decade, scientists found, the night sky has become nearly 10 percent brighter each year because of artificial lights, mainly LEDs emitting too much glare. Streetlights are part of the problem, as are sources such as illuminated billboards and stadium lights…

‘People need to understand LED lights are being installed everywhere, not just streetlights, but they’re blasting up in all directions,’ said Jim White, senior energy efficiency engineer with the Chelan County Public Utility District who helped with the county’s LED transition…

Researchers with the National Park Service found the LED lights washed out more of the stars, particularly near the horizon.

‘You can tell the lighting gets bigger, so it extends higher into the sky … the entire sky got brighter,’ said Li-Wei Hung, an astronomer with the National Park Service who published a study on the LED transition in Chelan County. ‘Just a few years ago, this [was] really new knowledge for us. Does the change to LEDs really decrease the light pollution or increase it? We [didn’t] exactly know.’

Camera data showed the sky over local Burch Mountain was 60 percent brighter after the county completed the switch in 2019 compared with 2018.

The new artificial light stood at 3.69 times the natural light level after the transition; before the transition, artificial lights generated 2.30 times the natural light. White said the increased pollution was ‘a total surprise’ because the Public Utility District had tried to direct lights toward the ground, but the light still scattered.

Detailed nightglow data from individual cities is hard to come by, making the transition in Chelan County an important case study in understanding both the good and bad effects of LED lights. Yet observations and anecdotes indicate Chelan County is not alone. From 2011 to 2022, reports from citizen scientists indicated the average night sky got brighter by 9.6 percent each year, which researchers attribute to LED light replacements. Some cities, such as D.C., paused a transition to LEDs after residents complained about the bright lights disrupting their sleep…”

— Kasha Patel, Kati Perry, Daniel Wolfe and Emily Sabens, Washington Post

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“This Florida city gets the state’s first ‘dark sky’ certification”

“This Florida city gets the state’s first ‘dark sky’ certification”

Photo: Steven Miller Photography in Tampa Bay Times

“Groveland’s work over the last three years to replace light fixtures will allow the night sky to shine clearer and brighter than it has in decades.

About 30 miles west of Orlando sits Groveland, a rural town of about 23,000 people that is seeing shipping giants like Amazon and Kroger bring jobs inside its city limits.

While the community welcomed the job growth, the lights on the warehouse rooftops were turning Groveland’s night sky into a hazy orange that made seeing stars at night challenging.

When residents and students pushed for a local ordinance protecting views of the night sky from harsh city lights in 2017, local officials were on board.

Six years later, Groveland has been recognized as the first Florida city to meet the criteria set by the international organization DarkSky to reduce the artificial brightness that drowns out the night sky.

Andrew Landis, Groveland conservation and special planning manager, spearheaded efforts to reduce light pollution in his fast-growing home city…

Steven Miller of Orlando is the southeast U.S. regional delegate for DarkSky, which is dedicated to reducing light pollution across the world. In 2020, the city of Groveland asked Miller what it would take to become the 41st city to meet DarkSky’s accreditation requirements.

Groveland’s recognition came after three years of public outreach and policy work…

About 12 volunteers now work as ‘citizen scientists’ in Groveland. The city supplies them with $150 light pollution testing devices, which resemble garage door remotes. From there, they are tasked with driving around the 54-square-mile city and pointing the machines at the clear night sky. Groveland is mostly rural and it takes about 30 minutes to get from one end to the other, Landis said…

Groveland is currently retrofitting old streetlamps with dark-sky-friendly lights, which are shielded downward with a low color temperature. City staff hope to replace every light fixture by 2027. But the night sky city ordinance applies immediately to new buildings, and explaining this to developers is sometimes tricky, Landis said.

‘Most people are receptive to it, but if they’re not, they learned quickly that we’re pretty serious,’ he said…

Groveland still has a long way to go before it reaps the rewards of the new city ordinance, Miller said. Installing new lights around the city and helping local businesses follow suit will take time and even more community outreach.

Some communities already see Groveland as a shining example of responsible city lighting.

Miller said the city of Okeechobee has reached out to him about adopting a city plan like Groveland’s ordinance.

‘I really believe that, yes, it will take off,’ Miller said. ‘I do think it’s going to take a little bit of time…'”

— Jack Prator, Tampa Bay Times

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Jacksonville’s Arboretum and Gardens – Wins Best Scenic Trail Award 2021 and illuminates the forest for the holidays

Jacksonville’s Arboretum and Gardens – Wins Best Scenic Trail Award 2021 and illuminates the forest for the holidays

Photo: Corey Perrine, Florida Times-Union

“Thousands of lights across a 3/4-mile walk are on display to draw young and old alike to celebrate the holiday season. Live entertainment, a 65-foot tunnel and a forest of fog and light are a few key attractions. The display runs through Jan. 9, 2022.”

— Corey Perrine, Florida Times-Union

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Read entire article about award and the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens

“The Switch to Outdoor LED Lighting Has Completely Backfired”

“The Switch to Outdoor LED Lighting Has Completely Backfired”


“To reduce energy consumption, many jurisdictions around the world are transitioning to outdoor LED lighting. But as new research shows, this solid-state solution hasn’t yielded the expected energy savings, and potentially worse, it’s resulted in more light pollution than ever before.

Using satellite-based sensors, an international team of scientists sought to understand if our planet’s surface is getting brighter or darker at night, and to determine if LEDs are saving energy at the global scale. With the introduction of solid-state lighting—such as LEDs, OLEDs, and PLEDs—it was thought (and hoped) that the transition to it from conventional lighting—like electrical filaments, gas, and plasma—would result in big energy savings. According to the latest research, however, the use of LEDs has resulted in a ‘rebound’ effect whereby many jurisdictions have opted to use even more light owing to the associated energy savings.

Indeed, as the new results show, the amount of outdoor lighting around the world has increased during the past several years. ‘As a result, the world has experienced widespread ‘loss of the night,’ with half of Europe and a quarter of North America experiencing substantially modified light-dark cycles,’ write the researchers in the new study, which was published today in Scientific Advances.

This conclusion was reached after analyzing high-resolution images collected by the Day-Night-Band (DNB) instrument that’s onboard the Suomi NPP weather satellite. This sensor features a spatial resolution of 2,460 feet (750 meters), and can ‘see’ light in the range of 500-900 nm (humans see in the range 400-700 nm). Traditional lamps emit some infrared that the DNB can detect, and LEDs produce a lot of blue light that the sensor cannot see. So as cities transition their outdoor lights to LED, scientists often see decreases in the light observed by satellite (which, to the human eye, would seem to have the same brightness).

‘For that reason I expected that wealthy countries would appear to be getting darker (even if that wasn’t truly the case). Instead, we observed wealthy countries staying constant, or in many cases increasing,’ said Christopher Kyba, lead author of the study and a researcher at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, in an interview with Gizmodo. ‘That means that even though some cities are saving energy by switching to LEDs, other places are getting brighter by installing new or brighter lamps (that need new energy). So the data aren’t consistent with the hypothesis that on the global scale, LEDs are saving energy for outdoor lighting applications.’

Researchers have been documenting the steady growth of artificial lighting ever since it was invented, and they’ve been wondering when the trend might stop. During the second half of the 20th century, electric light grew at an estimated rate of 3 to 6 percent per year. According to the new study, Earth’s artificially lit outdoor areas grew by 2.2 percent each year from 2012 to 2015, with a total radiance growth of 1.8 percent each year. During this span, nearly 60 countries experienced rapid increases in nighttime illumination between 110 to 150 percent, while another 20 countries experienced growth rates as high as 150 percent or more. Nearly 40 remained stable, with only 16 countries experiencing decreasing rates of nighttime illumination…

Disturbingly, the results presented in the new study may actually be worse than the data suggests. As previously mentioned, DRB is not able to detect low-wavelength blue light, which humans can see. Our planet, therefore, is even brighter at nighttime than the data suggests…

Nighttime illumination is considered a serious environmental pollutant, one that’s disruptive to nocturnal animals, plants, and microorganisms. But it’s also bad for human health as it disrupts the biological circadian rhythm, leading to metabolic disorders.

University of Exeter community ecologist Thomas Davies, who’s not affiliated with the new study, says it’s no secret that artificial light at night is a globally widespread pollutant, but estimating the rate at which it is expanding has been technically challenging.

‘This research overcomes many of these technical issues, providing reliable estimates of the global rate of expansion in artificial light pollution,’ Davies told Gizmodo. ‘The numbers are truly shocking, given that we know illuminating the nocturnal environment can have widespread ramifications for the environment and human health.’

Barentine says the solution to this problem is actually quite simple, but it’ll require us to gradually change our relationship with light at night.

‘We could instantly reduce the problem by about half if we assured that all outdoor lighting fixtures were fully shielded, meaning that they emitted no light directly above the horizon,’ he told Gizmodo. ‘We could then further reduce the amount of light pollution in the world if fixtures were properly designed and installed such that the light they emit was confined to the task area, and provided in no greater intensity than needed to safely illuminate the task. Lastly, we could reduce the biological harm of our lights by ensuring that they emit as little short-wavelength (blue) light as possible, by choosing ‘warmer’ lamps.’

The most effective way to bring about these changes is through public policy, says Barentine, so we should encourage the encoding of these principles into local, regional, and national laws throughout the world.

These solutions sound simple, and they’re certainly sensible, but it’s rather convenient for those of us in the developed world to impose such lofty standards onto places where nighttime light is being used for the very first time. Sure, we need to change the culture around the use of outdoor light, but let’s start this conversation in places where we already take nighttime illumination for granted.”

–George Dvorsky 

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