You recently linked to NightlightMap.com. What is that big huge area of brightness in [ostensibly lightly-populated] Northwest North Dakota? That makes me question the usefulness of that map at all. - Sam D.
JWR Replies: Those lights are the main concentration of activity in the Bakken oil fields--see this map. (See also, these photos.) Reader Rob H. tells me that the dots of light shown are mostly the light of burning off excess wellhead gas. (Plus, presumably: floodlights around drilling rigs, and floodlights around equipment yards, and the light of burning off excess wellhead gas, and floodlights, and the flames of burning un-needed fractions at refineries, and the temporary housing for the oilfield workers.) It is quite a booming area! Similarly, the bright lights seen in the heretofore "wilderness" NNE of Edmonton, Alberta are the extensive new Athabasca-Wabiskaw tar/oil sands fields.