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Evidence That Reduced Air and Road Traffic Decreased Artificial Night-Time Skyglow during COVID-19 Lockdown in Berlin, Germany

Sciprofile linkAndreas Jechow, Sciprofile linkFranz Hölker
Published: 17 October 2020
 by  MDPI
Remote Sensing , Volume 12; doi:10.3390/rs12203412

Abstract: Artificial skyglow, the brightening of the night sky by artificial light at night that is scattered back to Earth within the atmosphere, is detrimental to astronomical observations and has an impact on ecosystems as a form of light pollution. In this work, we investigated the impact of the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the urban skyglow of Berlin, Germany. We compared night sky brightness and correlated color temperature (CCT) measurements obtained with all-sky cameras during the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 with data from March 2017. Under normal conditions, we expected an increase in night sky brightness (or skyglow, respectively) and CCT because of the transition to LED. This is supported by a measured CCT shift to slightly higher values and a time series analysis of night-time light satellite data showing an increase in artificial light emission in Berlin. However, contrary to this observation, we measured a decrease in artificial skyglow at zenith by 20% at the city center and by more than 50% at 58 km distance from the center during the lockdown. We assume that the main cause for the reduction of artificial skyglow originates from improved air quality due to less air and road traffic, which is supported by statistical data and satellite image analysis. To our knowledge, this is the first reported impact of COVID-19 on artificial skyglow and we conclude that air pollution should shift more into the focus of light pollution research.
Keywords: air pollution / light pollution / Coronavirus / Lockdown / Artificial Light at Night / night sky brightness / skyglow / Night-time / All-sky Imaging / COVID-19 / SARS-CoV2

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