This week, America is an hour more than usual behind Europe. In the European Union, Summer Time begins on the last Sunday in March – all time zones change at the same moment, at 1am UTC (Universal Time a.k.a. GMT). So yesterday, the clocks went forward one hour. The clock change won’t happen in the US until the first Sunday in April – at the end of this week.
The original “invention” of Summer Time was made by William Willett who lobbied parliament in 1907. However, it was generally ridiculed and it wasn’t until the first world war that the economic argument started to be taken seriously. An American based time site attributes the original idea to Benjamin Franklin back in 1784. There is a difference of opinion in the two sites I have researched for this post, since webexhibits.org will have it that Germany led and Britain followed in May 1916, but greenwichmeantime.com states that Britain led in April 1916…
Daylight Saving Time originally started in World War One, as a means of saving energy. More light in the evenings meant that less energy was used to light homes and use appliances because people are more likely to be doing outside activities when it is light outside. The main argument aside from energy saving is the reduction of road traffic accidents, as there is more light for children coming home from school and adults coming home from work.
Europe harmonised the date by EC directive in 1981. Before that, an exception would be made in Britain if the last Sunday in March was also Easter Sunday. It wasn’t until 2002 that this was fully passed into British law with the Summer Time Order.
As of 2007, the US are experimenting: the Energy Policy Act will come into force and move the clock change to the second Sunday in March. The Department of Energy will report to Congress to find out if there is a positive economic impact in moving an hour of sunlight from the morning to the afternoon a couple of weeks earlier. Britain experimented between 1968 and 1971 when there was no change made to clocks in summer. This meant that schoolchildren would leave home in the dark, and it wasn’t particularly popular – my Dad often spoke about that time and thought it was a stupid decision to not change the clocks. The difference in summer daylight is more pronounced the further you get from the equator, so the north of England and Scotland suffered the most in this experiment.
Morocco, being much closer to the equator, does not have a notion of summer time at all. Living there for 4½ years I got used to not having a clock change twice a year. Coming back to Europe it’s been hard these past couple of years readjusting. This morning is particularly difficult since yesterday was Nathan’s first clock change. While he remains blissfully unaware of the time, we are completely out of kilter since he was up at 5.30am on Sunday (old time) but since it was 6.30am (summer time) we decided to get up and start his day. Needless to say, I’m feeling particularly peaky this morning.