Have We Done It For The Last Time?

Dali clock
Salvador Dali Clock | Image by techne.alay.net

I’ve been doing it all my adult life, but there is a good possibility I’ll never have to do it again. What could I be talking about? It’s our changing from Standard Time to Daylight Saving time. This past weekend we turned our clocks ahead one hour (or as the saying goes ” Spring Ahead!”).  The Fire Department also would like for you to test your smoke detectors and make sure their batteries are functioning.  The same goes for Carbon Monoxide detectors and Radon gas detectors. Having those alarms on the ready could very well save your life and the lives of your family members.

Daylight Saving Time Proclamation | Image by Ann Arbor District Library (aadl.org)

For some time now there has been a movement to stop going from Standard Time to Daylight Saving Time and back again year after year. One big stumbling block has been which one to choose. The United States adopted the change to Daylight Saving Time back in 1918, but a more specific law was enacted April 13, 1966. It is called the Uniform Time Act. Quoting the law itself from Wikipedia.com the law was enacted “… to promote the adoption and observance of uniform time within the standard time zones.” Wikipedia.com goes on to explain “its intended effect was to simplify the official pattern of where and when daylight saving time (DST) is applied within the U.S. Prior to this law, each state had its own scheme for when DST would begin and end, and in some cases, which parts of the state should use it.”

Some states are continuing efforts to stop the change. Oregon lawmakers have already passed a bill (Senate Bill 320) that would keep us on Daylight Saving Time permanently. The bill has been sent to Governor Kate Brown, but even if she signs it, the U.S. Congress has to approve it before it can take effect.

Maryland lawmakers have proposed a bill that would eliminate the change to daylight saving time and remain on standard time while other bills have been proposed that would have Maryland remain on daylight saving time and not change back.

According to Montgomery Community Media (mymcmedia.com) “thirty-nine states have proposed legislation to change their observance of Daylight Saving Time in some way, according to the Congressional Research Service. Three of those states passed permanent Daylight Saving Time legislation similar to the bills proposed in Maryland: Florida, Washington, and Tennessee.” This article was posted before Oregon passed the bill that still awaits the governor’s signature.

Hawaii and most of Arizona are the only states that do not observe daylight saving time except for the Navajo nation. Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas are also in the process of trying to stick with standard time permanently. It seems that as of November 1, 2020 Canada will permanently stay on local standard time.

Ben Franklin
Benjamin Franklin | Image by Famous Biography

Where did the whole idea come from? It all started with Benjamin Franklin when he was an American Delegate in Paris in 1784.  He wrote an essay, An Economical Project, describing his idea of saving an hour of daylight in the evening by pushing the clocks one hour ahead in Spring and returning the hour to the morning in the Fall. The U.S. and Canadian railroad systems started using “Standard Time” on November 18, 1883, but it took many years for the practice to be generally accepted.  “Standard Time” was adopted so that train departure and arrival schedules would match up in all parts of the country. Before that each railroad company set their schedules on whatever time they wanted.

William Willett
William Willett | Image by ideastream.org

The idea of “Daylight Saving Time” wasn’t taken to seriously until 1907 when a London builder named William Willett wrote a pamphlet, The Waste of Daylight, in which he proposed turning clocks forward by 20 minutes on the four Sundays in April and changing them back on each of the four Sundays in September.  In the pamphlet he did give a reason for changing the clocks: “Everyone appreciates the long, light evenings.  Everyone laments their shortage as Autumn approaches; and everyone has given utterance to regret that the clear, bright light of an early morning during Spring and Summer months is so seldom seen or used.”  While he was taking an early morning ride he noticed that people kept their blinds closed to keep out the morning sun.  Changing the clocks would make that sunshine last an hour longer in the evening and allow the mornings to be less bright. The British Parliament passed on May 17, 1916 to formally start the time change to Daylight Saving Time, known in Europe as “Summer Time,” on Sunday May 21,1916. The energy savings were really noticeable during WWII when they set the British clocks two hours (then called “Double Time”) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time during Summer.

I am sure I haven’t changed the minds of those of you who don’t want to keep changing from “PST” to “PDT” and back again and those who do, but please feel free to post your thoughts on the matter as a comment.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can email me at: [email protected].

Tim Chuey is a Member of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association and has been Awarded Seals of Approval for television weathercasting from both organizations.

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