In Umea, Sweden, the forecast for Thursday is partly cloudy with a 10 percent chance of precipitation and a high of 25 degrees Fahrenheit. As I write this in dark and damp Portland, Ore., Umea doesn't sound so bad.
But the city, located some 400 miles north of the already northern Swedish capital Stockholm, is for most of the day this time of year cloaked in darkness, with the sun rising at almost 9 a.m. and setting just after 2 p.m.
So the local energy company Umea Energi has begun installing phototherapy lamps in 30 bus shelters throughout the city to try, as spokesperson Anna Norrgard tells Reuters, to give people "a little energy kick" while they wait.
The company reports that the light is completely harmless, with the ultraviolet radiation filtered out, according to a Google translation of the press release, and adds: "When the sun shows itself the least, we need the energy the most."
The American Cancer Society states that while there is no scientific evidence for the use of ultraviolet therapy in treating cancer or other illnesses beyond psoriasis and the suppression of a certain type of skin cancer, light box therapy without the ultraviolet radiation is a "proven medical treatment for seasonal affective disorder," and that it is currently being explored to treat other types of depression.
The electricity that will power these bus shelter lamps for the next three weeks reportedly comes from renewable sources and is part of the company's long-term goal to be completely carbon neutral by 2018.