The VIIRS Day/Night Band: A Flicker Meter in Space?
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The VIIRS Day/Night Band: A Flicker Meter in Space?

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  • Journal Title:
    Remote Sensing
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    The VIIRS day/night band (DNB) high gain stage (HGS) pixel effective dwell time is in the range of 2–3 milliseconds (ms), which is about one third of the flicker cycle present in lighting powered by alternating current. Thus, if flicker is present, it induces random fluctuations in nightly DNB radiances. This results in increased variance in DNB temporal profiles. A survey of flicker characteristics conducted with high-speed camera data collected on a wide range of individual luminaires found that the flicker is most pronounced in high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, such as high- and low-pressure sodium and metal halides. Flicker is muted, but detectable, in incandescent luminaires. Modern light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and fluorescent lights are often nearly flicker-free, thanks to high-quality voltage smoothing. DNB pixel footprints are about half a square kilometer and can contain vast numbers of individual luminaires, some of which flicker, while others do not. If many of the flickering lights are drawing from a common AC supplier, the flicker can be synchronized and leave an imprint on the DNB temporal profile. In contrast, multiple power supplies will throw the flickering out of synchronization, resulting in a cacophony with less radiance fluctuation. The examination of DNB temporal profiles for locations before and after the conversion of high-intensity discharge (HID) to LED streetlight conversions shows a reduction in the index of dispersion, calculated by dividing the annual variance by the mean. There are a number of variables that contribute to radiance variations in the VIIRS DNB, including the view angle, cloud optical thickness, atmospheric variability, snow cover, lunar illuminance, and the compilation of temporal profiles using pixels whose footprints are not perfectly aligned. It makes sense to adjust the DNB radiance for as many of these extraneous effects as possible. However, none of these adjustments will reduce the radiance instability introduced by flicker. Because flicker is known to affect organisms, including humans, the development of methods to detect and rate the strength of flickering from space will open up new areas of research on the biologic impacts of artificial lighting. Over time, there is a trend towards the reduction of flicker in outdoor lighting through the replacement of HID with low-flicker LED sources. This study indicates that the effects of LED conversions on the brightness and steadiness of outdoor lighting can be analyzed with VIIRS DNB temporal profiles.
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    Remote Sensing, 14(6), 1316
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    CC BY
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