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Light Pollution

Light pollution, also known as photopollution or luminous pollution, is excessive or obtrusive artificial light. Pollution is the adding-of/added light itself, in analogy to added sound, carbon dioxide, etc. Adverse consequences are multiple; some of them may be not known yet. Scientific definitions thus include the following: Degradation of photic habitat by artificial light.[1] Alteration of natural light levels in the outdoor environment owing to artificial light sources.[2] Light pollution is the alteration of light levels in the outdoor environment (from those present naturally) due to man-made sources of light. Indoor light pollution is such alteration of light levels in the indoor environment due to sources of light, which compromises human health.[3] Light pollution is the introduction by humans, directly or indirectly, of artificial light into the environment.[4] The first three of the above four scientific definitions describe the state of the environment. The fourth (and newest) one describes the process of polluting by light. Light pollution competes with starlight in the night sky for urban residents, interferes with astronomical observatories,[5] and, like any other form of pollution, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects. Light pollution can be divided into two main types:[citation needed] Unpleasant light that intrudes on an otherwise natural or low-light setting Excessive light (generally indoors) that leads to discomfort and adverse health effects Light pollution is a side effect of industrial civilization. Its sources include building exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues. It is most severe in highly industrialized, densely populated areas of North America, Europe, and Japan and in major cities in the Middle East and North Africa like Tehran and Cairo, but even relatively small amounts of light can be noticed and create problems. Since the early 1980s,[citation needed] a global dark-sky movement has emerged, with concerned people campaigning to reduce the amount of light pollution. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is one non-profit advocacy group involved in this movement. Light pollution is a broad term that refers to multiple problems, all of which are caused by inefficient, unappealing, or (arguably) unnecessary use of artificial light. Specific categories of light pollution include light trespass, over-illumination, glare, light clutter, and skyglow. A single offending light source often falls into more than one of these categories. Light trespass Light trespass occurs when unwanted light enters one's property, for instance, by shining over a neighbor's fence. A common light trespass problem occurs when a strong light enters the window of one's home from the outside, causing problems such as sleep deprivation or the blocking of an evening view. A number of cities in the U.S. have developed standards for outdoor lighting to protect the rights of their citizens against light trespass. To assist them, the International Dark-Sky Association has developed a set of model lighting ordinances.[7] The Dark-Sky Association was started to reduce the light going up into the sky which reduces visibility of stars, see sky glow below. This is any light which is emitted more than 90° above nadir. By limiting light at this 90° mark they have also reduced the light output in the 80–90° range which creates most of the light trespass issues. U.S. federal agencies may also enforce standards and process complaints within their areas of jurisdiction. For instance, in the case of light trespass by white strobe lighting from communication towers in excess of FAA minimum lighting requirements[8] the Federal Communications Commission maintains an Antenna Structure Registration database[9] information which citizens may use to identify offending structures and provides a mechanism for processing consumer inquiries and complaints.[10] The US Green Building Council (USGBC) has also incorporated a credit for reducing the amount of light trespass and sky glow into their environmentally friendly building standard known as LEED. Light trespass can be reduced by selecting light fixtures which limit the amount of light emitted more than 80° above the nadir. The IESNA definitions include full cutoff (0%), cutoff (10%), and semi-cutoff (20%). (These definitions also include limits on light emitted above 90° to reduce sky glow.) Over-illumination Main article: Over-illumination An office building is illuminated by high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps shining upward, of which much light goes into the sky and neighboring apartment blocks and causes light pollution, in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. A satellite image of Earth at night. A composite image of the Earth at night in 1994–95. Over-illumination is the excessive use of light. Specifically within the United States, over-illumination is responsible for approximately two million barrels of oil per day in energy wasted. This is based upon U.S. consumption of equivalent of 50 million barrels per day (7,900,000 m3/d) of petroleum.[11] It is further noted in the same U.S. Department of Energy source that over 30% of all energy is consumed by commercial, industrial and residential sectors. Energy audits of existing buildings demonstrate that the lighting component of residential, commercial and industrial uses consumes about 20–40% of those land uses, variable with region and land use. (Residential use lighting consumes only 10–30% of the energy bill while commercial buildings major use is lighting.[12]) Thus lighting energy accounts for about four or five million barrels of oil (equivalent) per day. Again energy audit data demonstrates that about 30–60% of energy consumed in lighting is unneeded or gratuitous.[13] An alternative calculation starts with the fact that commercial building lighting consumes in excess of 81.68 terawatts (1999 data) of electricity,[14] according to the U.S. DOE. Thus commercial lighting alone consumes about four to five million barrels per day (equivalent) of petroleum, in line with the alternate rationale above to estimate U.S. lighting energy consumption. Over-illumination stems from several factors: Not using timers, occupancy sensors or other controls to extinguish lighting when not needed; Improper design, especially of workplace spaces, by specifying higher levels of light than needed for a given task; Incorrect choice of fixtures or light bulbs, which do not direct light into areas as needed; Improper selection of hardware to utilize more energy than needed to accomplish the lighting task; Incomplete training of building managers and occupants to use lighting systems efficiently; Inadequate lighting maintenance resulting in increased stray light and energy costs; "Daylight lighting" demanded by citizens to reduce crime or by shop owners to attract customers;[15] Substitution of old mercury lamps with more efficient sodium or metal halide lamps using the same electrical power; and, Indirect lighting techniques, such as lighting a vertical wall to bounce photons on the ground. Most of these issues can be readily corrected with available, inexpensive technology, and with resolution of landlord/tenant practices that create barriers to rapid correction of these matters. Most importantly public awareness would need to improve for industrialized countries to realize the large payoff in reducing over-illumination. Glare Main article: Glare (vision) Glare can be categorized into different types. One such classification is described in a book by Bob Mizon, coordinator for the British Astronomical Association's Campaign for Dark Skies.[16] According to this classification: Blinding glare describes effects such as that caused by staring into the Sun. It is completely blinding and leaves temporary or permanent vision deficiencies. Disability glare describes effects such as being blinded by oncoming car lights, or light scattering in fog or in the eye, reducing contrast, as well as reflections from print and other dark areas that render them bright, with significant reduction in sight capabilities. Discomfort glare does not typically cause a dangerous situation in itself, though it is annoying and irritating at best. It can potentially cause fatigue if experienced over extended periods. According to Mario Motta, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, "... glare from bad lighting is a public-health hazard—especially the older you become. Glare light scattering in the eye causes loss of contrast and leads to unsafe driving conditions, much like the glare on a dirty windshield from low-angle sunlight or the high beams from an oncoming car."[17] In essence bright and/or badly shielded lights around roads can partially blind drivers or pedestrians and contribute to accidents. The blinding effect is caused in large part by reduced contrast due to light scattering in the eye by excessive brightness, or to reflection of light from dark areas in the field of vision, with luminance similar to the background luminance. This kind of glare is a particular instance of disability glare, called veiling glare. (This is not the same as loss of accommodation of night vision which is caused by the direct effect of the light itself on the eye.) Light clutter Las Vegas displays excessive groupings of colorful lights. This is a classic example of light clutter. Light clutter refers to excessive groupings of lights. Groupings of lights may generate confusion, distract from obstacles (including those that they may be intended to illuminate), and potentially cause accidents. Clutter is particularly noticeable on roads where the street lights are badly designed, or where brightly lit advertising surrounds the roadways. Depending on the motives of the person or organization that installed the lights, their placement and design can even be intended to distract drivers, and can contribute to accidents. Clutter may also present a hazard in the aviation environment if aviation safety lighting must compete for pilot attention with non-relevant lighting.[18] For instance, runway lighting may be confused with an array of suburban commercial lighting and aircraft collision avoidance lights may be confused with ground lights. Skyglow Main article: Skyglow Mexico City at night, with a brightly illuminated sky. Skyglow refers to the glow effect that can be seen over populated areas. It is the combination of all light reflected from what it has illuminated escaping up into the sky and from all of the badly directed light in that area that also escapes into the sky, being scattered (redirected) by the atmosphere back toward the ground. This scattering is very strongly related to the wavelength of the light when the air is very clear (with very little aerosols). Rayleigh scattering dominates in such clear air, making the sky appear blue in the daytime. When there is significant aerosol (typical of most modern polluted conditions), the scattered light has less dependence on wavelength, making a whiter daytime sky. Because of this Rayleigh effect, and because of the eye's increased sensitivity to white or blue-rich light sources when adapted to very low light levels (see Purkinje effect), white or blue-rich light contributes significantly more to sky-glow than an equal amount of yellow light. Sky glow is of particular irritation to astronomers, because it reduces contrast in the night sky to the extent where it may even become impossible to see any but the brightest stars. The Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, originally published in Sky & Telescope magazine,[19][20] is sometimes used (by groups like the U.S. National Park Service[21]) to quantify skyglow and general sky clarity. The nine-class scale rates the darkness of the night sky and the visibility of its phenomena, such as the gegenschein and the zodiacal light (easily masked by skyglow), providing a detailed description of each level on the scale (with Class 1 being the best). Light is particularly problematic for amateur astronomers, whose ability to observe the night sky from their property is likely to be inhibited by any stray light from nearby. Most major optical astronomical observatories are surrounded by zones of strictly enforced restrictions on light emissions. Direct skyglow is reduced by selecting lighting fixtures which limit the amount of light emitted more than 90° above the nadir. The IESNA definitions include full cutoff (0%), cutoff (2.5%), and semi-cutoff (5%). Indirect skyglow produced by reflections from vertical and horizontal surfaces is harder to manage; the only effective method for preventing it is by minimizing over-illumination. But it has to be taken into account that, according to late 2010 publications, Italian regions using full cut off lighting only does not increase skyglow. [22] Anyway light reflected upwards by dark surfaces such as roads or building can be considered as minor, so debate about contribution of indirect skyglow will last long. In pristine areas clouds appear black and blot out the stars. In urban areas skyglow is strongly enhanced by clouds Skyglow is made considerably worse when clouds are present.[23] While this has no effect on astronomical observations (which are not possible at visible wavelengths under cloud cover), it is very important in the context of ecological light pollution. Since cloudy nights can be up to ten times brighter than clear nights, any organisms that are affected by sky glow (e.g. zooplankton and fish that visually prey on them) are much more likely to have their ordinary behavior disturbed on cloudy nights.