Why do lights on the ground seem to flicker when taking off in an airplane at night? I first noticed it when reading an excellent book by David Grinspoon called Lonely Planets.
I read it years ago and don’t have the book handy so I hope I got it right. In the book Grinspoon made the observation that the flickering you mentioned was only noticeable to him when he was taking off or landing at airports in the Northeast like in NYC or DC, but not at airports in the Southwest like in Arizona or Texas.
He realized that the flickering is probably due to the fact that there are more trees around in those areas, and while the chance of a particular streetlight being obscured by a tree branch is pretty low, when you look at blocks and blocks worth of streetlights you are bound to have quite a few of them being blocked by branches at any given moment giving the flickering effect you mentioned.
I believe he was making the analogy to try and explain the transit method of discovering exoplanets. (Source)