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Archive for the ‘Houston at Night’ Category

Houston: A Nightmare of Lights

Posted by feww on March 22, 2010

Metropolitan Energy Black Hole

Light Pollution in ‘The Energy Capital of the World’

Five of Texas’s coal-fired power plants that pollutes Houston’s sky at night are among the nation’s Top 10 emitters of mercury.

Houston, Texas at Night. The image [acquired January 10, 2010] depicts the roughly 100 kilometer (60 mile) east-west extent of the Houston metropolitan area. Houston proper is at image center, indicated by a “bull’s-eye” of elliptical white to orange-lighted beltways and brightly lit white freeways radiating outwards from the central downtown area. Suburban and primarily residential urban land uses are indicated by both reddish-brown and gray-green lighted regions that reflect a higher proportion of tree cover and lower light density. Petroleum refineries along the Houston Ship Channel are identified by densely lit areas of golden yellow light. Rural and undeveloped land rings the metropolitan area, and Galveston Bay to the southeast (image lower right) provides access to the Gulf of Mexico. Both types of non-urban surface appear dark in the image. Image and caption [sniped for brevity] by NASA.

Some facts about Houston

  • Size: Houston CMSA covers about 2,331,000 hectares (9,000 square miles)
  • Houston CMSA: The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA) consists of the eight counties of Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller.
  • Average Elevation: 13m (43 feet)
  • Population: 2.5 million (Houston is the fourth most populous city in the US, trailing only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and is the largest in Texas and the southern U.S.)
  • Houston Metro Population: 5.8 million (Pop Ranking: 6th largest US)
  • The three-airport system saw over 51 million passengers in 2006, including over seven million international travelers.
  • Houstonians eat out more than residents of any other city,  with  11,000 restaurants and eateries.
  • The Port of Houston ranks first in the United States in international waterborne tonnage handled and second in total cargo tonnage handled. It is the tenth largest port in the world.
  • More than 5,000 energy related firms are based in Houston.
  • Energy, aeronautics, and technology industries in Houston make it second only to New York City as a base for Fortune 500 headquarters.
  • Comparing Houston’s economy to a national economy, only 21 countries other than the United States have a GDP exceeding Houston’s regional output (2007).

Texas Coal-Fired Power Plants

Location Map:  Texas Coal-Fired Power Plants. Source: The Western Region Ash Group

Visible Pollution

  • Houston has a serious air quality problem. Since 1999, the Texas city has exchanged titles with Los Angeles as having the most polluted air in the United States defined by the number of days each city violates federal smog standards.
  • Five coal-fired Texas power plants which help keep the lights glaring at night are among the nation’s Top 10 emitters of mercury (Texas is also home to the largest concentration dirtiest coal-fired plants in the nation boasting 7 out of the worst 50).

Houston, we really do have a problem!

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