A Changing Earth at Night

  • Released Wednesday, December 6, 2017
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This image shows the change in lighting intensity from 2012 to 2016. The map was created using two separate night lights datasets (from 2012 and 2016) derived using data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite. Each pixel represents 500 meters (1640 feet), or approximately six city blocks. Dark purple represents areas with new light since 2012, while dark orange represents areas where light existed in 2012 but no longer exists in 2016. Areas where lighting intensity stayed the same between 2012 and 2016 appear white. Varying shades of purple and orange indicate areas that have become brighter or dimmer since 2012, respectively.

Scientists use the Suomi NPP night lights dataset in many ways. Some applications include: forecasting a city’s energy use and carbon emissions, eradicating energy poverty and fostering sustainable energy development, providing immediate information when disasters strike, and monitoring the effects of conflict and population displacement.

In recent years, India has undergone rapid electrification (purple). In Syria, six years of war have had a devastating effect on millions of its people. One of the most catastrophic impacts has been on the country’s electricity network. Lights have gone out (orange) during the course of the conflict, leaving people to survive with little to no power. In Nigeria, light from gas flaring activity decreased from 2012 to 2016 (orange), largely due to international agreements acted on by the country.

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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Release date

This page was originally published on Wednesday, December 6, 2017.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 12:39 AM EST.

Datasets used in this visualization

Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details, nor the data sets themselves on our site.