Colouring Europe by night

Sánchez de Miguel, A., Bennie, J., Rosenfeld, E., Dzurjak, S. & Gaston, K.J. 2022. Environmental risks from artificial nighttime lighting widespread and increasing across Europe. Science Advances 8, eabl6891.

The nighttime environment of much of Earth is being changed rapidly by the introduction of artificial lighting. While data on spatial and temporal variation in the intensity of artificial lighting have been available at a regional and global scale, data on variation in its spectral composition have only been collected for a few locations, preventing variation in associated environmental and human health risks from being mapped. Here, we use imagery obtained using digital cameras by astronauts on the International Space Station to map variation in the spectral composition of lighting across Europe for 2012–2013 and 2014–2020. These show a regionally widespread spectral shift, from that associated principally with high-pressure sodium lighting to that associated with broad white light-emitting diodes and with greater blue emissions. Reexpressing the color maps in terms of spectral indicators of environmental pressures, we find that this trend is widely increasing the risk of harmful effects to ecosystems.[Image from Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center]