California Lights

February 09, 2001

Provided by: NCAR/UCAR/NSF, NASA
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster


On this nighttime visible image taken from the Defense Mapping Satellite Platform (DMSP), California is easy to pick out. It's the patch of bright lights sticking into the Pacific Ocean - the blue line is the North America/Pacific Ocean coastline. This image was taken last Thursday (February 1), and even though power shortages this winter have resulted in "rolling brown outs" across the state, any decrease in power use is not evident on this image. Faced with some of the highest power prices in the US, California opted to deregulate the electricity market in 1996 hoping that prices would fall as competition increased. Instead, wholesale prices increased drastically. A combination of factors has led to the power crunch including the growth of "Silicon Valley" (south of San Francisco) and the fact that no new power stations have been built in California during the past decade. On the above image, the Los Angeles-San Diego corridor and the greater San Francisco-Silicon Valley-Oakland area shine like headlights on a highway. Further inland, the cities in the central valleys of California appear as a series of connected dots. In addition, Denver, Albuequerque, El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Boise, and Reno can all be readily identified on this particularly clear and moonless night.

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