Letter Re: Mysterious Lights in North Dakota?

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.