Geography of Daylight Saving Time

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Daylight Saving Time rolls around a couple times a year and it always takes us by surprise! Remembering to change your clocks back and forward takes more than a few reminders from local media, calendar notes, and whatever else it takes to remember the changing of the clocks. However, many countries around the world do not observe daylight saving time, or have changed their policies regarding the practice.

Daylight Saving Time involves turning the clocks an hour forward during the spring and back an hour in the fall. This gives people an extra hour of daylight in the summer in which to live without the use of electricity and back again when the days get shorter. The idea was first introduced by a man from New Zealand named George Vernon Hudson in 1895 and was first practiced in Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1916, while Englishman William Willett took up the mantle but didn’t live to see the successful implementation of DST in Britain in American in 1917 and 1918, respectively, after his death in 1915.

Western nations were the first to practice Daylight Saving Time and are still the most consistent in its practice during the present day. Areas of Africa and Asia don’t observe Daylight Saving Time, or DST, and areas of South and Central America and Oceania are mixed. For instance, New Zealand and Southern Australia practice Daylight Saving Time while the rest of Australia does not; in South America the countries of Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and parts of southern Brazil practice Daylight Saving time while places north of the continent of South America typically do not. Russia, across its many (ten!) time zones also has Daylight Saving Time in place.

Map of where daylight saving time is still used around the world.

Map of where daylight saving time is still used around the world.

The majority of the world doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time, but the countries that do are fairly steady in their practice. There are critiques of Daylight Saving Time as well as benefits, although there have been fairly consistent complications because of the lack of uniformity on countries that do and don’t practice DST.

What is the Purpose of Daylight Saving Time?

Daylight Saving Time was created to lengthen the natural daylight hours of the warmer months and help save money on electricity, and in its beginnings, to help reduce the use of incandescent lighting during the evenings. There have also been studies on how Daylight Saving Time affects the use and cost of heating and cooling systems, although these reports contain varying results that paint DST in favorable and unfavorable lights. Theoretically Daylight Saving Time should have some effect on heating and cooling patterns although these can be very different depending on where in the world people are living, if their country practices DST, the climate, and their economic status (the ability to afford heating and cooling systems in the first place).

Daylight Saving Time can benefit retailers and other companies who rely on longer daylight hours to boost sales and traffic through their locations. DST complicates life by the twice yearly changing of time zones, can cause disruptions in work schedules, financial transactions, computing and more, and may also have negative effects on peoples’ sleep schedules. Although increased globalization and technology help mitigate some of the effects of Daylight Saving Time the computers aren’t infallible and often experience problems adjusting themselves to a new time without the loss of valuable transactions or data.

Where is Daylight Saving Time Most Beneficial?

Daylight Saving Time is the most beneficial for countries above and below the equator, but is less beneficial to countries near the equator and close to the Earth’s two poles. The areas near the equator see little change in the daylight hours they have throughout the year, while the drastic changes of day versus night in areas like Alaska or Norway render the effects of Daylight Saving Time moot.

Daylight Saving Time isn’t always adjusted by an hour; Australia’s Lord Howe Island adjusts on a half-hour schedule, and on occasion a two hour or twenty minute change has been implemented. Some countries, like Brazil and the United States, have partial country shifts while areas north of the Brazilian equator and the US states of Arizona and Hawaii have chosen not to observe Daylight Saving Time.

DST also affects the religious practices of some regions such as the Middle East and parts of Indonesia. Countries like Morocco and Palestine observe DST except during the fasting month of Ramadan, when DST would make the day longer and delay the traditional evening meal which breaks the fast. Iran, on the other hand, does observe Daylight Saving Time despite its status as an Islamic state.

Daylight Saving Time is controversial, complicated, and can be confusing, but there is no doubt that many nations will continue its use far into the future. Greater uniformity of regulations surrounding DST is needed to minimize complications and to get the world on the same page, in a sense. I, for one, will be enjoying my extra waking hours of sun in the summer and an hour of sleeping in a bit longer this fall!

References

Harris, Shelby. ‘Daylight Saving Time Takes a Toll on Health.’ The New York Times. 6 March 2014. Web 23 October 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/03/06/daylight-saving-time-at-what-cost/daylight-saving-time-takes-a-toll-on-health

Wikipedia. Daylight Saving Time. 23 October 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time

Wikipedia. Daylight Saving Time by Country. 23 October 2014. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time_by_country