This past weekend, clocks all across the U.S. turned back one hour as Daylight Saving Time (DST) came to an end. For some, this was a pleasant treat — an extra hour to catch up on much needed Z’s!
Sleep is good! – Credit: CarbonNYC via Flickr
What you may not be aware of, however, is how daylight saving originated and the connection it has to weather. The main idea behind Daylight Saving Time (DST) is to allow people and businesses to utilize daylight more effectively. More specifically, turning the clocks back in the fall and ahead in the spring helps to conserve energy.
Benjamin Franklin – Credit: perpetualplum via Flickr
According to many historians, the original idea for DST originated with none other than Ben Franklin, who was known for his colorful and often practical ideas in the realms of science and public policy. In 1784, as he approached the end of his term as an American delegate in Paris, Franklin penned “An Economical Project,” a discourse on the merits of natural versus artificial lighting. He included several humorous laws or ideas that the city of Paris could enact to conserve energy and make better use of daylight.
Paris at night – Credit: agaw.dilim via Flickr
Others adopted the idea in Britain and this was the first country to put DST into effect starting in 1840 with London railroads. By 1855 a large majority of Britain’s clocks were set to DST. Much later, the U.S. government created a law putting daylight saving time in effect during World War I and World War II. Between 1945 and 1966, however, there was no U.S. law to enforce daylight saving time.
Vintage Farming – Credit: e r j k p r u n c z y k via Flickr
However, by 1966 daylight saving time was in use by more than 100 million Americans due to local laws and customs. Many of these individuals were farmers, who felt their productivity benefited from the extra daylight in the morning during the spring and summer. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act was passed, setting up a system of uniform (within each time zone) Daylight Saving Time throughout the U.S. and its territories. Mid-fall is a natural time to turn the clocks back in the U.S., since it is a time when home and business owners are switching from air conditioning to heat.
The specific “turn back the clock date” that saves the most energy year-to-year depends on weather conditions in a particular country. In the U.S. the clocks are always turned back in mid-autumn and turned forward in early spring. However, daylight saving time is not used in the state of Arizona (aside from the Navajo Reservation), Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. In April 2006, the Eastern Time Zone of Indiana began to use DST after decades of not changing the clocks back and forth in spring and autumn.
Trying to save daylight – Credit: bark via Flickr
Many other countries use daylight saving time as well, including all of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, Israel and Egypt. In the southern hemisphere countries like Australia, Brazil and Chile, the dates are reversed because their seasons are the opposite of the northern hemisphere. Thus clocks are turned back in March or April and forward in September or October.
Article credit: WeatherBug Meteorologists
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