Daylight Saving Time 2019: Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

The Strangeness of Daylight Saving

March 7, 2019
Sky and Sun

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This weekend brings the long-awaited start of Daylight Saving Time, which suddenly fills our evenings with brightness. The way our clocks “spring ahead” is a strange business.

DST begins on Sunday, March 10, 2019, at 2:00 A.M. We are told to “spring forward” in the spring and set our clocks forward one hour (i.e., losing one hour).  See more Daylight Saving Time information.

It means that this Saturday night, you cannot have an appointment with anybody at 2:30 AM because that simply does not exist. Or, you could boast that in solidarity for World Peace, you will remain balanced on one leg from 1:59 until 3:01 AM.  Mr. Spock and other logic-loving Vulcans still might not be too enthusiastic, for the way our clocks “spring ahead” is downright illogical.

It didn’t have to be; In fact Daylight Time starts off being a wonderfully sensible idea.

Why We Change Our Clocks

In a nutshell, we modify our clocks so that an hour of brightness that would fall in the generally unusable realm of five in the morning gets transferred to a time when we’re all awake.

  • Changing the clocks does not create extra daylight; however, it causes the Sun to rise and set at a later time by our man-made clocks. When we spring forward an hour this Sunday, we add 1 hour of natural daylight to our afternoon schedule.
  • A century ago, DST was supposed to save energy because it used less artificial light. However, today, the amount of energy saved is negligible or even non-existent, due to modern society’s use of computers, TV, air conditioning units, etc. When the state of Indiana decided to introduce DST in 2006, a study found that the measure actually increased energy use in the state.

But being human we apparently found it impossible to make the project fully rational, so we’ve added a wild, screwy twist.

  • We advance the clocks now, 11 days before the spring equinox. So far, so good.
  • Common sense then demands that we set them back again when the Sun and length of day symmetrically return to their present positions, which will happen soon after the autumn equinox, specifically October 1. Instead, however, Daylight Time is bewilderingly set by Congress to end over a full month later, on November 3.
  • If for some reason we couldn’t bear to give up November’s date, then the start of Daylight Time, for balance and logic, ought to be the first week of February! Nobody has ever offered a syllable of justification for the current system; It just is, like raisin bran and the bow tie.

It used to be worse. Before 1986, Daylight Time began even later, on the last Sunday in April, which made even less sense. Alternatively, one might opt out of the whole thing, the way Arizona and Hawaii do. And Africa. And most of Asia. Or one could keep fooling around with it, the way Russia did when it had year-round Daylight time until 2014, and then switched to year-round standard time.

Odds are, no one’s finished screwing with this.

Here’s the short and squirrelly history of Daylight Saving Time.

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s hub for everything stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe