Daylighting the 60 Blog

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Who came up with the brilliant idea of moving the clocks forward on the weekend in the middle of the night?  Why not move clocks ahead on a Friday afternoon around 4:00 p.m.?

Are you ready?

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is coming.  Maybe its motto can be “Making the snooze button more necessary since 1918.”  It was first used in Europe during WWI to save energy and make better use of natural light.  For years, some parts of the United States used DST, while others did not.  Good news: the days are getting longer now.  Bad news: on Sunday, daylight saving time starts and you lose an hour of sleep.

At the beginning of the DST period in the spring, clocks are moved forward, usually by one hour. When DST ends in the fall, clocks are turned back again.  DST does not add daylight but it gives us more usable hours of daylight.  In that sense, DST “saves” daylight, especially during early spring.  Standard time refers to time without DST.

In the U.S., “Fast Time” as it was called then, was first introduced in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law to support the war effort during World War I.   Only seven months later the seasonal time change was repealed. However, some cities, including Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York, continued to use it until President Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted year-round DST in the United States in 1942.  Year-round DST, also called “War Time,” was in force during World War II, from February 9, 1942, to September 30, 1945, in the U.S. and Canada.  During this time, the U.S. time zones were called “Eastern War Time,” “Mountain War Time,” “Central War Time,” and “Pacific War Time.”  After the surrender of Japan in mid-August 1945, the time zones were relabeled “Peace Time.”

From 1945 to 1966 there were no uniform rules for DST in the U.S. and it caused widespread confusion especially for trains, buses, and the broadcasting industry.  As a result, the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (UTA) was established by Congress.  It stated that DST would begin on the last Sunday of April and end on the last Sunday of October.  However, states still had the ability to be exempt from DST by passing a state ordinance.

Arizona is exempt from DST according to the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005.  This allows every state or territory the right to decide if it wants to use DST.  If DST is observed, the state has to schedule DST in sync with the rest of the U.S.:  from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November.

Most people believed that DST was not necessary given Arizona’s hot climate, and cooler evenings were a benefit.  However, some businesses operating interstate complained that they had to keep reminding other states that Arizona doesn’t have DST.  The 1966 UTA set a schedule for DST, but left it up to local jurisdictions to decide if DST was to be used.  In 1967, Arizona observed DST from the last Sunday of April to the last Sunday of October. That year, it followed the rest of the country in returning to Standard Time. This change provoked so many negative reactions that DST was never used again. People in Arizona, including many businesses, farming communities, and parents, preferred to remain on Mountain Standard Time throughout the year, claiming that DST produced no benefits for them.

The U.S. Congress extended DST to a period of ten months in 1974 and eight months in 1975, in hopes to save energy following the 1973 oil embargo.  The trial period showed that DST saved the energy equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil each day, but DST still proved to be controversial.  Many complained that the dark winter mornings endangered the lives of children going to school.

After the energy crisis was over in 1976, the DST schedule in the U.S. was revised several times throughout the years. From 1987 to 2006, the country observed DST for about seven months each year. The current schedule was introduced in 2007 which extended the period by about one month.  Today, DST starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November.

The incorrect term “Daylight Savings Time” is very commonly used, especially in Australia, Canada, and the U.S.  It’s likely that “savings” entered the popular vocabulary because it’s so often used in everyday contexts, like “savings account.”

DST is now in use in over 70 countries worldwide and affects over a billion people every year.  The beginning and end dates vary from one country to another. In 1996, the European Union (EU) standardized an EU-wide DST schedule, which runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.  I hadn’t given much thought to DST in other countries until just yesterday when we received a firmwide email informing us that our European offices don’t change their clocks for two more weeks.

With the exception of the Navajo Nation, Arizona does not set the clocks forward one hour in spring with the rest of the U.S. and they observe Mountain Standard Time (MST) all year.  Don’t confuse MST with Mountain Daylight Time (MDT), the time zone observed in other part of the Mountain time zone.  Hawaii is the only U.S. state that does not use DST at all.  None of the U.S. dependencies observe DST either.

Anyone else confused?

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