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Home » Cartography, Economic Geography, Sub-Saharan Africa

Dark Areas on the Earth at Night Map

Submitted by on May 17, 2014 – 7:26 am 8 Comments |  
Korea light mapAs is well known, North Korea is a dark land when viewed from space at night, quite in contrast to well-illuminated South Korea. In the Google EarthBuilder detail posted here, the discrepancy between the two countries is extreme. In the North, Pyongyang is the only sizable bright spot, and it is dwarfed by many regional South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cities. (The offshore lights seen on this map were generated mostly by squid fishing.)

Central Africa light mapBut North Korea is hardly the world’s only area of minimal lighting. As can be seen in the second image, much of Central Africa is darker. In Central African Republic, the capital city, Bangui, is essentially the only illuminated area, and even it is unimpressive. I have not been able to identify a much smaller lighted area located in the virtually unpopulated northeast; it is not situated in the right place to be Birao, the regional center (population 10,000), which was “almost completely burnt down in the fighting between rebels and government troops in the area” in 2007.

The northern portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo is equally un-illuminated. Kisangani, a major city with almost a million inhabitants, hardly registers. Southern Chad, on the other hand, does have a fairly bright area (labeled with a question mark), but it is not linked to any city or town that I can locate. I assume that the light emitted from this area comes from gas flares associated with oil production. Chad’s oil industry, however, is centered in the town of Doba, a much less significant source of light.

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  • Xezlec

    The question mark in Chad appears to be Bousso or its airport, judging by Wikimapia. The one in Central African Republic eludes me. Could a temporary encampment of some kind produce that much light, I wonder?

    • It could be, although Bousso itself appears to be a bit to the north, located on the road that can be seen on this overlay map. Also, the light seem too bright for a town of only 14,000. Thanks for looking into this issue!

  • Luke S.

    These light posts are very interesting. Thank you for sharing them!

  • pg

    Squid fishing with bright lights quite literally shines in these charts. Some maps of Patagonia at night are even more striking, as you can see the contrast between the few settlements on the coast and the many clusters of lights at high sea.

    • Yes, I find the amount of light used in squid fishing rather astounding.

  • rock

    Your link to Google Earth Builder is not working.

  • It’s worth noting that the areas appearing completely dark on these maps are don’t actually indicate a complete lack of electric light at night. The brightness of the data is adjusted down so that you can still see detail with areas of extreme brightness – a side effect being that areas of only modest lighting appear completely black.

    That said, it’s still useful as a relative measure for comparison with the most well-lit parts of the globe.