August 2003 - The Day the Lights went Out in Eastern North America

Teaching Points:

1. Use the two images below and the associated NOAA links to commence a discussion re: our dependence upon electricity.

2. Follow this up and guide discussion to what would have been seen from space on the two nights Aug14th and 15th.- use images below

3. Now lead discussion toward observing population distribution as seen from space by our visible light patterns. 

4. Using "Nightworld" GIS lesson, look at how light patterns display our geographical links between population distribution and such things as soil or climate zones so we see the historical reasons for the light concentrations of urban areas. Return discussions to how the physical landscape which built these patterns of population based upon previous geographical considerations now focus our energy requirements to sustain current lifestyles. NOTE: The lesson will be updated to include the Aug blackout images geo-referenced as soon as possible.

The two images below show the main difference from August 14th, the night before to the August 15th blackout as provided by NOAA at

August 14th

August 15th


Night Lights satellite image about 20 hours before the blackout taken Aug. 13, 2003.

With annotations

Without annotations

Night Lights satellite image about seven hours after the blackout.

With annotations

Without annotations