While the map above is now a few years out of date (data from 2006) it shows the amount of light pollution around the world. Not surprisingly, densely populated areas tend to have far more light pollution than sparsely populated ones.
Moreover, wealthy areas tend to have more than poorer ones, which can be clearly seen in some of the more detailed maps below.
The maps are updated versions of the original The World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness.
These maps are intended to show the levels of pollution in the atmosphere rather than the stellar visibility […]. The assumption of sea level and standard clear atmospherical conditions allows to compare pollution of different areas, to recognize more polluting sources or darker areas (areas with less light in the atmosphere and not areas where you see better the stars) without be confused by the altitude effects.
Here are some of the more interesting regions around the world. Alternatively, you can also play around with the interactive Google Maps version here.
Map shows how little light pollution there is North Korea compared to neighbouring South Korea, Japan, China and even Russia. The one below shows how this looks compared to the rest of Asia:
Map shows the Asian light pollution. Perhaps most interesting is China, which has a huge amount of light (and air) pollution along its East Coast, while Central and Western China are almost empty.
Japan and South Korea are also notable for their extreme levels of light pollution, which won’t surprise anyone who’s been to Tokyo. On the other end of spectrum, look at Mongolia which is almost empty outside its capital Ulan Bator.
Finally, while India is clearly visible, the amount of light pollution is somewhat less than what might be expected considering it’s the world’s second most populous country.
North America, like China, has a high population density on its East Coast. Also notable is how little of Canada has light pollution, the one big exception being the tar sands of Alberta.
Unsurprisingly, Europe’s wealth and high population density result in a lot of light pollution. Notable exceptions are Iceland, which is all but empty in the centre and Russia which is far less densely populated than Western Europe. That said Moscow is clearly visible on the map as is the activity around the West Siberian petroleum basin (to the east of Moscow).
Population density along the Nile is clearly visible in the map above. Also noteworthy is the high degree of light pollution in Israel and Palestine. Oil and gas activity around the rest of the Middle East is also visible.
However, if you travel south from Egypt you’d find most of Sub-Saharan Africa free from most light pollution. The two glaring exceptions, outside of major population centres, are the oil activity in the Niger Delta and the copper mining in Palabora, South Africa.
Finally, the map of Australia clearly shows that most people live in cities on the coast and the interior is virtually deserted. Contrast that to the island of Java (top left) which has a population of 143 million compared to Australia’s 24 million.
You can also check out a similar map of air pollution here.
To learn more about light pollution and population density have a look at the following books:
- The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light
- Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities
- Lights of Mankind: The Earth at Night as Seen from Space
Notice anything else interesting in these maps? Share it in the comments section below: