Spring is in the air. Actually, Spring officially arrives on March 20 – which is also Palm Sunday, which means that Easter rolls around on March 27 this year.
Yep. Spring forward. Set those clocks ahead by an hour at 2 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, March 13.
But what is Daylight Saving Time – or DST, as those in the know call it – and why do we go to the trouble of changing clocks twice a year?
Well, for some basic info, let’s consult our friend Wikipedia:
Daylight saving time (DST) or summer time is the practice of advancing clocks during summer months by one hour so that in the evening daylight is experienced an hour longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times. Typically, regions with summer time adjust clocks forward one hour close to the start of spring and adjust them backward in the autumn to standard time.
New Zealander George Hudson proposed the modern idea of daylight saving in 1895. Germany and Austria-Hungary organized the first nationwide implementation, starting on 30 April 1916. Many countries have used it at various times since then, particularly since the energy crisis of the 1970s.
The practice has received both advocacy and criticism. Putting clocks forward benefits retailing, sports, and other activities that exploit sunlight after working hoursbut can cause problems for evening entertainment and for other activities tied to sunlight, such as farming. Although some early proponents of DST aimed to reduce evening use of incandescent lighting, which used to be a primary use of electricity, modern heating and cooling usage patterns differ greatly and research about how DST affects energy use is limited or contradictory.
DST clock shifts sometimes complicate timekeeping and can disrupt travel, billing, record keeping, medical devices, heavy equipment and sleep patterns.
Computer software can often adjust clocks automatically, but policy changes by various jurisdictions of the dates and timings of DST may be confusing.
Other sources credit Benjamin Franklin with coming up with the original idea.
Why bother to change the clocks? Proponents say it makes better use of daylight, especially for nations farther from the Equator, where there is more variation in periods of daylight/night.
So which countries observe DST? The U.S., Canada and… more than you might think. Most of the U.S. begins DST at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March (and “falls back,” or reverts to standard time, on the first Sunday in November). Each time zone switches independently.
In the European Union, “summer time” begins at 1 a.m. Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time) on the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October. All E.U. time zones change at the same moment.
But that’s not all. Iran switches on March 21, Israel on Friday, March 25 and Jordan on April 1. The link above offers a nice comprehensive list of which nations switch and when.
And, of course, not every location, even within a nation that observes DST, goes along with the change. The link also gives a look at those spots as well, but the short answer, at least for U.S. states and territories, is: most of Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Parts of Indiana did not observe DST in the past.
Those in favor of DST maintain that it gives us, overall, more waking hours in the sunshine.
Critics say it’s time to dump DST because it’s not just confusing and annoying, but also inefficient and doesn’t have the energy-saving or economic benefits its defenders claim. (Note: links are from 2015 or earlier.)
So that’s the scoop on why and when we switch to DST.
But, love it or loathe it, you can use DST as a reminder to do things that make your life healthier and more efficient. We’ll discuss those options later this week in part 2.