Bursting with Holiday Energy—United States

  • Released Wednesday, February 12, 2020
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NASA researchers found that nighttime lights in the United States shine 20 to 50 percent brighter in December due to holiday light displays and other activities during Christmas and New Year’s when compared to light output during the rest of the year. These five maps, created using data from the VIIRS DNB on the Suomi NPP satellite, show changes in lighting intensity and location around many major cities, comparing the nighttime light signals from December 2012 and 2013 to the average light output for the rest of 2012 to 2014. Green shading marks areas where light usage increased in December; yellow marks areas with little change; and red marks areas where less light was used.

The light output from 70 U.S. cities was examined as a first step toward determining patterns in urban energy use. They found that light intensity increased by 30 to 50 percent in the suburbs and outskirts of major cities where there is more yard space and more single-family homes. Lights in the central urban areas did not increase as much as in the suburbs but still brightened by 20 to 30 percent. Despite being ethnically and religiously diverse, the U.S. experiences a holiday increase across most urban communities—tracking a national, shared tradition. Daily nightlight data provide a new way of looking at how people use cities and the forces and patterns driving energy use.

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NASA, Earth at Night book

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This page was originally published on Wednesday, February 12, 2020.
This page was last updated on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at 12:44 AM EST.