The most detailed ever satellite maps of England’s light pollution and dark skies, which were released on 13th June by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), have shown that National Parks and AONBs have a vital role in the protection of dark landscapes.
The maps, produced using satellite images captured at 1.30 am throughout September 2015, show that Northumberland has 87% of its skies in the two darkest categories and is on average the second darkest county in England.
This research comes at a time of increasing awareness of the harmful effects light pollution can have on the health of people and wildlife. That these skies were monitored at 1.30am illustrates just how long into the night England’s lighting spills.
The new maps were produced by Land Use Consultants from data gathered by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in America in a project funded by a number of protected landscapes, including the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership. The NOAA satellite captured visible and infrared imagery to determine the levels of light spilling up into British skies. CPRE is calling on all local authorities to use these maps to identify areas with severe light pollution and target action to reduce it, as well as identifying existing dark skies that need protecting. It is also sending lesson plans to primary schools in order to promote the enjoyment of dark skies.
The work that Northumberland County Council has already started, to replace all its street lights with LED technology, was highlighted in a case study in the report. The before and after maps of Ashington clearly showed reductions in light pollution after the new street lighting was installed.
John Woodman, Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership Chair said “The AONB Partnership was pleased to be able to support this project and it has highlighted the fantastic quality of Northumberland’s dark skies. However, we should not be complacent, the maps reveal areas where more work is needed to reduce light pollution and the report will be a useful tool for looking at future planning applications, to ensure that we can continue to enjoy our fascinating dark skies.”