A Fresh Look at the Not-So-Dark Side of Earth
Fresh imagery showing the increasingly illuminated night side of Earth has been produced by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is one of the clearest visible signs of the Anthropocene — an era in which one species, us, is becoming a planet-scale influence. The imagery also shows big dark gaps in populous places — reflecting the reality that some 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity.
NASA has provided a detailed description of how the imagery was created from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite.
In its 2011 analysis of humanity’s electricity gap (the latest one that’s freely accessible), the International Energy Agency estimated that 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity, with Asia just ahead of Africa in numbers living in the dark, but Africa with a much higher proportion lacking this vital resource (a 41.8 percent electrification rate) compared to Asia (81 percent).
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: December 6, 2012
The post initially only credited NASA for the new imagery. The satellite is a joint NASA/NOAA effort.