Daylight Saving Time: Where did it come from, and why am I losing an hour of daylight tomorrow?


Dan LaMoore adjusts the hands on a Seth Thomas Post Clock at Electric Time Company, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Medfield, Mass. Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. local time Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, when clocks are set back one hour. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

(WJHL) – A consistent clock has been one of the first hallmarks of civilization, and humanity has always come up with new ways to eliminate excuses for the less punctual of us.

Daylight Saving Time is a yearly occurrence in the United States, where as a nation we “spring forward” or “fall back” by all adjusting our clocks an hour ahead and behind, respectively.

For some, maximizing spring daylight is worth the cost in the fall, but why did the practice start in the first place?

The History of Time

In a nutshell, time isn’t as cut and dry as you might hope it is. In Rome, the Julian calendar replaced the Roman Republican calendar to more closely align their civic schedule with the actual path of the Earth around the Sun.

In the United States, time zones were implemented in the late 19th Century to standardize railroad schedules across the country.

In another intersection of time and economics, U.S. Daylight Saving Time (DST) arose out of the same need.

As the Earth orbits the sun, the same tilt that gives us the seasons takes daylight from us. Depending on your distance from the equator, your home will tilt toward or away from the Sun’s rays and change the time of sunset and sunrise each day.

While the difference is relatively small each day, the impact adds up. In far Northern and Southern regions of the world it like Utsjoki, Finland, residents have only two hours and 15 minutes of light on their darkest day.

In an effort to conserve coal during World War I, the United States first implemented Daylight Saving Time in 1918. The reasoning was similar to Benjamin Franklin’s joking suggestion to Parisians, saying that they could save on candles if they only woke up sooner.

The measure was brought back across the U.S. in World War II, known as War Time, for the same reasons.

While the early history of DST in the U.S. was seen as laughable, the impact that the change has is no joke: according to a Department of Energy report in 2015, extended DST enacted in 2005 cut roughly .03% of national electricity usage. While that number may seem small, the raw number saved is 1.3 Tera Watt-hours.

In other words, the energy saved by that extension could power 247,336 60-watt bulbs for an entire year straight.

So why do I lose that hour of daylight?

When the U.S. “falls back”, we aren’t moving the clocks earlier. We’re actually setting them back to their original non-DST time, or Standard Time.

In 2021, Standard Time returns at 2 a.m. Nov. 7. Phone clocks connected to the internet will update automatically at that time, and alarms should need no adjusting.

For all other clocks, remember to set them one hour earlier either before bed or at 2 a.m. if you’re a night owl. The change will give you an additional hour of sleep, at the cost of an hour of daylight at the end of the day.

The decision hasn’t been universally popular by any means, with farmer lobbies railing against the changing schedule and asking to preserve their early light taken by DST days.

For those of us on a more clock-based schedule, the change marks the beginning of winter prep and colder, darker days.

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