Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Big Cities, Bright Lights: Ranking the Worst Light Pollution on Earth

Popular
Big Cities, Bright Lights: Ranking the Worst Light Pollution on Earth
Chicago skyline on April 20, 2017. Chris Favero / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Dipika Kadaba

The amount of artificial lighting is steadily increasing every year around the planet. It's a cause for celebration in remote villages in Africa and the Indian sub-continent that recently gained access to electricity for the first time, but it is also harming the health and well-being of residents of megacities elsewhere that continue to get bigger and brighter every year.

Health impacts of this artificial illumination after daylight hours range from depression to cancer, including a range of sleep disorders.


A less tangible effect: 80 percent of people on Earth have lost their view of the natural night sky due to the overpowering glow of artificial lights.

The Revelator analyzed light pollution levels around the world, revealing the planet's worst affected cities as well as the most light-polluted metropolitan areas, where development is mixed and diffused over massive distances. The areas on our top 10 lists are all well above the global urban average, which you'd find in major American cities like Pittsburgh or Raleigh.

The results on the lists may surprise you. The brightest cities have large populations, of course, but in many areas lighting is also geographically or culturally influenced. For example, cities in northern latitudes, where the sun shines less, or in arid countries, where hot daytime sun inspires more evening activity, are often brightly lit. This means they can outshine the usual light-pollution suspects like New York and Tokyo.

Top 10 Brightest Metropolitan Areas Compared to the Global Urban Average

10. Miami, USA, 2.6 times brighter
9. Denver-Aurora, USA, 2.7 times brighter
8. Mexico City, Mexico, 2.8 times brighter
7. Detroit, USA, 2.9 times brighter
6. Buenos Aires, Argentina, 3.5 times brighter
5. Toronto, Canada, 3.6 times brighter
4. Chicago, USA, 4.5 times brighter
3. Montréal, Canada, 4.8 times brighter
2. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 6.7 times brighter
1. Moscow, Russia, 8.1 times brighter

Top 10 Brightest Cities Compared to the Global Urban Average

10. Tangier, Morocco, 5.3 times brighter
9. Helsinki, Finland, 5.9 times brighter
8. Medina, Saudi Arabia, 6.0 times brighter
7. Kazan, Russia, 6.1 times brighter
6. Edmonton, Canada, 6.5 times brighter
5. Calgary, Canada, 6.6 times brighter
4. Kuwait City, Kuwait, 7.0 times brighter
3. Chelyabinsk, Russia, 7.1 times brighter
2. Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 7.4 times brighter
1. Saint Petersburg, Russia, 8.1 times brighter

Light pollution isn't exclusive to the places on these lists. The problem is worldwide. Explore light pollution in this map of the world's highest populated urban areas and see how they compared to the global urban average.

dipika.carto.com

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.

Radiation-contaminated water tanks and damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb. 25, 2016 in Okuma, Japan. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

Japan will release radioactive wastewater from the failed Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean, the government announced on Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier, aka the doomsday glacier, is seen here in 2014. NASA / Wikimedia Commons / CC0

Scientists have maneuvered an underwater robot beneath Antarctica's "doomsday glacier" for the first time, and the resulting data is not reassuring.

Read More Show Less
Trending
Journalists film a protest by the environmental organization BUND at the Datteln coal-fired power plant in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany on April 23, 2020. Bernd Thissen / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

Lead partners of a global consortium of news outlets that aims to improve reporting on the climate emergency released a statement on Monday urging journalists everywhere to treat their coverage of the rapidly heating planet with the same same level of urgency and intensity as they have the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read More Show Less
Airborne microplastics are turning up in remote regions of the world, including the remote Altai mountains in Siberia. Kirill Kukhmar / TASS / Getty Images

Scientists consider plastic pollution one of the "most pressing environmental and social issues of the 21st century," but so far, microplastic research has mostly focused on the impact on rivers and oceans.

Read More Show Less
A laborer works at the site of a rare earth metals mine at Nancheng county, Jiangxi province, China on Oct. 7, 2010. Jie Zhao / Corbis via Getty Images

By Michel Penke

More than every second person in the world now has a cellphone, and manufacturers are rolling out bigger, better, slicker models all the time. Many, however, have a bloody history.

Read More Show Less