Elements of Spring: the Daylight Saving Time

Mark SpencerNational, Ohio, USLeave a Comment

One of the sure signs the first official day of the astronomical spring is the Daylight Saving Time a couple weeks in advance of the first day of spring in March – something that will go in effect this weekend,  in fact.  You can read further about the differences between the meteorological first day of spring (March 1) and the astronomical first day of spring – which most people follow in late-March – in Monday’s article from Steve LaVoie: Meteorological v. Astronomical seasons

This week I am going to take a break talking about any specific weather-events to cover this seemingly mood-boosting phenomenon we have,  where we turn clocks ahead by one hour.  You will commonly hear people say they prefer this time-change over the one in November since he or she knows it will bring more light in the evenings first,  then eventually the early-morning.

History,  Pros,  Cons,  and…weather

The first thing to set the record straight on for Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. is the commonplace idea that this was intended for agriculture – this is FALSE; rather,  this was business and recreational intentions.  We cannot begin discussing the daylight saving time without first giving a few brief facts about its origins:

  • Benjamin Franklin did not originate its idea;  he just proposed a change in sleep schedule
  • William Willett was the first advocate of DST
  • DST was first used country-wide in Germany in April 1916; first used ever in Thunder Bay,  Canada in 1908
  • It was first implemented in 1918 in the United States
  • A repeal of it was later issued in 1919, where only local places could choose to do it – usually state-by-state basis
  • It was not until 1966 when the United States was back in order with formality of the time changes
  • Hawaii and Arizona do not observe Daylight Saving Time
  • It formerly ran from April to October, but was moved to March to November as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005

Certainly we can think of plenty of pros about the DST: that it brings us initially an extra hour of light in the evening,  only to take an hour in the morning (eventually they will balance out as we move closer to June).  You can learn additional facts about the DST on the History Channel’s website at Things you may not know about Daylight Saving Time.

World map of countries that observe the DST. Northern Hemisphere is shaded blue; southern hemisphere has an orange shade

One must wonder how we come up with the dates of when to change the clocks,  though.  The maximum DST is usually reached in June, coinciding with the Summer Solstice,  where maximum daylight is achieved in the Northern Hemisphere for the year.  Here is something to consider: if we did not observe the DST in Ohio, the sun would basically rise at 4:57 a.m. in June – which may cause an angry fervor among those that go to sleep later in the evening and sleep in.  A possible argument against the use of DST could be that it seems “unnecessary” or has little impact, or does not really conserve energy at all.  The latter argument is indeed a true one,  as no evidence actually exists that energy is conserved; in fact, it accounts to 1-percent or less and is offset by cooling expenses in the summer.

How does this tie in with our weather?  The primary way we can look at this is through the seasons.  We like to think of summer as those short nights, mild, and being outside later in the day.  The Earth’s heat budget is in fact related to the seasons and amount of daylight at a location.  For instance, locations where maximum sunlight is observed the most (that is,  where the sun is closer to being directly overhead the most), observe the warmest temperatures on average.  Think of the equator as the best example.  But while the seasons do coincide, the extra daylight only helps “better” them.  We can save the discussion on Earth’s heat budget for another article.

While we turn our clocks forward this weekend,  let this once again serve as another hopeful reminder that warmer, brighter days are indeed ahead.  As we frolic and romp our way into the blue skies, sunshine, shorts, and t-shirts of the summertime months, you can thank those clocks for the extra hour of daylight in the evening as you enjoy time outside with friends; family; and others.  While technically Sunday will be the shortest day of the year hours-wise,  it will offer you longer-term benefits from one night of “losing” an hour of sleep.

You can find further information on the Time and Date website, as well: History of Daylight Saving Time

Blessings upon each of you,

-Robert Carroll

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