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MODIS Land Surface Albedo

Get Information. MOL Viewer. Open Access Article. For the soil substrate, its input radiation is attenuated by the leaves of the upper canopy.


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The error bar is the standard deviation. If the retrieved soil VIS albedo was smaller than 0. The fraction of absorbed photosynthetically active radiation by vegetation FAPAR is a key variable in describing the light absorption ability of the vegetation canopy. The idea of a red sky at night used to invoke beautiful images of vibrant sunsets, the product of warm sunlight bathing the sky near the horizon.

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But red skies at night have taken on a new meaning in recent decades. As outdoor lighting become increasingly prominent, our night skies are gradually turning from black to red. The scientists were tracking the effects of cloud cover on light pollution when the realized the colour of the night is changing.


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Until relatively recently, nights skies were quite dark. Then people started illuminating the outdoors and nights became brighter. Benjamin Franklin helped promote street lamps in the U. These were replaced by gas lamps starting in Baltimore in , which remained popular until Thomas Edison introduced the light bulb. Electric streetlights first appeared in Cleveland in and were the dominant form of street illumination by the turn of the century.

As electricity became more affordable, the number of street lamps increased, turning dark city skies into a thing of the past. This sky glow is a common phenomenon seen over busy urban areas.

Surface Albedo

Some types of light fixtures produce more of a glow than others. Street lamps open on the top, unfocused lights, and upward-facing lights, like those placed under billboards, drastically increase the amount of sky glow.

The more light sent upwards, the more light scattered back down by the atmosphere. In places where natural light dominates the night sky, clouds typically make those skies darker, just as they do during daylight hours. But the researchers found that the opposite is true in urban areas: Clouds actually magnify the sky glow effect by reflecting more artificial light back down to Earth.

Similarly, the team found that the shorter wavelengths of artificial light are scattered most easily on clear nights. But with cloud cover, the long-wavelength red light that is usually sent out into space on clear nights is scattered back down to Earth. The result is that cloudy nights in urban areas have a reddish glow. And the size of the effect is substantial. Taking measurements hours every night for months in Berlin, the team found that the blue portion of sky glow is 7 times more radiant on cloudy nights than on clear night, while the red portion is 18 times brighter.


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In the visual range, that translates to cloudy nights being thousands of times brighter than they are in natural dark night conditions. This has a significant effect on nature. Animals, humans included, have circadian rhythms—cyclical body clocks that regulate when we should be awake and when we should be asleep. Throw that rhythm off and you get the feeling of jet lag. This effect is probably minor compared to other nature-unfriendly aspects of cities like heavy traffic and habitat loss.

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The current worldwide trend is leaning towards replacing gas-discharge lamps with solid-state lighting like light-emitting diode lights. LEDs are cheaper, last longer, can turn off and on instantly, making them an ideal motion-triggered, energy-saving light source, and they can be directed to light specific areas. The downside is that because LEDs emit more shorter wavelengths, they might make the night sky still brighter on clear nights.

This increase in blue light could have an outsized effect on our circadian rhythms, which are particularly sensitive to the shorter wavelengths. These bright nights also bring about a less concrete problem: They are taking away our beautiful night skies. The ancients knew the stars and planets with an intimate knowledge most now reserve for their favorite celebrities.