Today at 2:00 am is when the US changed from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time which required shifting clocks back by one hour. It is also the cue for many (including me) to grumble once again about this clock adjusting process that takes place twice a year. I went around changing all eight clocks last evening and then a few minutes later, there was a brief power cut, which meant that I had to again set the time on four clocks that are plugged in.
Not every part of the US changes times like this, with some staying on Standard Time all year round.
Exceptions include Arizona (except for the Navajo, who do observe daylight saving time in Navajo Nation), Hawaii, and the overseas territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands.
I grew up near the equator where the amount of daylight stays pretty much the same throughout the year. and thus does not require fiddling around with clocks twice a year. But irritation with the practice is growing in the US and arguments for keeping one time throughout the year seem to becoming more frequent.
But even when there is agreement on the need for keeping the time standard fixed year round, there remains disagreement with whether the single time should be Daylight Savings Time or Standard Time. Business interests, especially in the recreational world. tend to favor DST because the long evenings of daylight are more conducive to people indulging in outdoor activities after work and school. The golfing community particularly likes it and they are a highly influential lobby since so many of the rich and powerful indulge in this pastime.. But parents and educators tend to favor Standard Time so that children are not having to go to school in the dark in the. cold winter months.
In a surprise move, in March of this year, the US senate passed a bill proposed on the floor by Florida senator Marco Rubio that would fix DST as the time all year round, and it passed unanimously without any hearings. The changes would take effect in November 2023. The bill never became law because the House of Representatives has so far not even agreed to take it up.
The quick and consequential move happened so fast that several senators said afterward they were unaware of what had just happened.
Congress tried a permanent daylight saving time in the 1970s, but quickly reversed course on the move amid widespread public outcry over the switch.
The latest attempted switch will only get to President Joe Biden’s desk to become law if the House acts on the measure, and that chamber’s plans remain unclear. [Sen. Roger] Wicker said he expected the House to pass it and Biden to sign it, but one person familiar with the matter said there was no clear agreement between the Capitol’s two sides at the moment.
There are suggestions from medical research that Standard Time is better for us because it is more aligned with our circadian rhythms.
Very recently, the European Parliament, called to decide on possible abolition of the Daylight Saving Time (DST), approved a resolution calling the scientific community to conduct a more in-depth evaluation. The question is based on disruption of body’s circadian rhythms. We review here the relationship between DST and cardiovascular health. The available evidence suggests the existence of an association between DST and a modest increase of occurrence of acute myocardial infarction, especially in the first week after the spring shift. Possible mechanisms include sleep deprivation, circadian misalignment and environmental conditions. The role of gender and individual preference in circadian rhythms (chronotype) will need further assessment.
Arguments in favor of adopting DST all year round have been criticized.
The US has previously tried and failed to maintain daylight savings time year round. People have claimed that it would reduce energy consumption, maximize daylight, and provide more time for both productivity and enjoyment of the day. Yet, data does not support the fact that following DST has led to significant energy conservation, and following DST year round would not maximize daylight in any season other than Summer. Furthermore, experts in sleep medicine fiercely disagree with the decision to keep daylight savings time over standard time. While a number of practical, legal, economic, and safety considerations fuel this debate, the crux of the issue, and the science behind the right answer, hinge on the circadian rhythm.
There is of course the option of splitting the difference and setting the clocks halfway between the two time standards. This would mean that US time would be off by a half-hour from most of the world which would be a little awkward. But some countries do not seem to be bothered by that (or even by quarter-hour shifts, as is the case in Nepal) and even within countries, there are zones that are off by half an hour, with Australia being a notable example.
My country of origin Sri Lanka is off by half an hour and I blogged in 2006 (scroll down) about how the government changed its time by half an hour to make it on the hour. That change was fought by some members of the Buddhist clergy for the most farcical of reasons. They claimed that the shift resulted in the country’s ‘spiritual plane’ (whatever the hell that is) shifting to now lying in the Indian Ocean, causing all manner of natural disasters such as the deadly tsunami in 2004. But they were were powerful enough to force the government to reverse itself. It would not surprise me in the political climate that we have in the US today for any move to change the current system to also be denounced by the loony conspiracists, suggesting that it is part of a secret plot to undermine the precious bodily fluids of real Merkins.
The globe is split into 360 degrees for its 24 hours which gives each degree a shift of 4 minutes. Hence a shift in longitude by 15 degrees corresponds to one hour in time. Most countries pick the nearest hour longitude as their time, and if the country is large enough, have different time zones for each 15 degree shift. China is notable in that in 1949 it adopted just one time throughout the country, even though the width of the country spans five hours of time zones.(For an alternative explanation of how time zones work, see today’s Non Sequitur cartoon.)