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Open AccessArticle

Snowglow—The Amplification of Skyglow by Snow and Clouds Can Exceed Full Moon Illuminance in Suburban Areas

by Andreas Jechow 1,2,* and Franz Hölker 1,3
Ecohydrology, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, 12587 Berlin, Germany
Remote Sensing, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, 14195 Berlin, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
J. Imaging 2019, 5(8), 69;
Received: 27 June 2019 / Revised: 26 July 2019 / Accepted: 29 July 2019 / Published: 1 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Light Pollution Assessment with Imaging Devices)
Artificial skyglow, the fraction of artificial light at night that is emitted upwards from Earth and subsequently scattered back within the atmosphere, depends on atmospheric conditions but also on the ground albedo. One effect that has not gained much attention so far is the amplification of skyglow by snow, particularly in combination with clouds. Snow, however, has a very high albedo and can become important when the direct upward emission is reduced when using shielded luminaires. In this work, first results of skyglow amplification by fresh snow and clouds measured with all-sky photometry in a suburban area are presented. Amplification factors for the zenith luminance of 188 for snow and clouds in combination and 33 for snow alone were found at this site. The maximum zenith luminance of nearly 250 mcd/m2 measured with snow and clouds is a factor of 1000 higher than the commonly used clear sky reference of 0.25 mcd/m2. Compared with our darkest zenith luminance of 0.07 mcd/m2 measured for overcast conditions in a very remote area, this leads to an overall amplification factor of ca. 3500. Horizontal illuminance measurements show values of up to 0.79 lx, exceeding maximum possible full-moon illuminance levels by more than a factor of two. Additional measurements near the Arctic Circle for clear and overcast conditions are presented and strategies for further studies are discussed. We propose the term “snowglow” to describe the amplification of skyglow by snow with and without clouds. View Full-Text
Keywords: light pollution; artificial light at night; night-time; snow; winter light pollution; artificial light at night; night-time; snow; winter
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Jechow, A.; Hölker, F. Snowglow—The Amplification of Skyglow by Snow and Clouds Can Exceed Full Moon Illuminance in Suburban Areas. J. Imaging 2019, 5, 69.

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