Daylight Saving Time: When Is It And Why Do We Have It?

One of the main arguments for Daylight Savings Time is that it results in lighter mornings during autumn and winter when the hours of daylight are scarce. Image credit: Christian Mueller/Shutterstock.com

When is Daylight Saving Time and, perhaps more pressingly, what the hell is the point of it nowadays? Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the bi-annual switching of the clocks and why this practice still exists in many (but not all) countries. Spoiler alert: it has very little to do with farmers. 

WHEN DO THE CLOCKS CHANGE THIS YEAR?

Daylight saving time 2022 in the US will begin at 2:00 am on Sunday, March 13 where the clock will be put forward by one hour. As always, it starts on the second Sunday in March of the year and ends on the first Sunday in November. 

Just to make things confusing for all trans-Atlantic businesses, the UK works on a different time schedule. Their equivalent, “British Summer Time”, comes into effect at 1:00 am on the last Sunday of March and ends at 2:00 am on the last Sunday of October. In 2022, that means the clocks will go forward on Sunday, March 27, and will go back on Sunday, October 30. All EU countries run a similar schedule as the UK, adjusting their clocks on the last Sunday in March and October.

An easy way to remember which way the clock will go is through the saying "spring forward, fall back" – in springtime, the clocks are moved forward from 2:00 am to 3:00 am, while they are moved back from 2:00 am to 1:00 am in fall.

However, not all countries observe Daylight Saving Time and many have ditched the practice in recent decades. Just 70 countries observe daylight saving time and these are predominantly found in North America and Europe, as well as parts of Australia, New Zealand, and a few countries in South America. Most countries around the equator do not bother since there is little variation in seasonal daylight across the year.

WHY DO WE HAVE DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME?

A central argument for Daylight Saving Time is that it results in lighter mornings during autumn and winter when the hours of daylight are scarce, as well as providing “longer” evenings with extra daylight in the spring and summer. Arguably, these are the times where daylight is of most use to people: you can enjoy nice long evenings in the summer, while it’s not quite as dark when you wake up in winter. 

One of the original rationales for daylight saving was a way to conserve energy, reducing the need for people to turn on their lights on winter mornings and summer evenings. In the and Germany UK, for instance, the policy is said to have been first introduced during the First World War in an attempt to save candles and coal for the war effort. The US quickly followed suit with a law that went into effect in March 1918, also arguing it was a good way to conserve energy and resources.

However, there’s never been any conclusive evidence to suggest that Daylight Saving Time does actually save energy. Some research has indicated that it may marginally save on electricity for lighting, but it tends to increase the use of electricity for heating and cooling. Other research into the energy-saving potential of Daylight Saving Time has been mixed, but it's generally agreed to be very difficult to measure due to inconsistencies in study methods, changes in energy use over the years, and evolving lifestyles. 

You may have heard that farmers advocated for Daylight Saving because it meant they had more daylight hours in the morning to work, but this is a myth. In reality, many farmers hated these new rules coming into effect as it meant they had less time in the morning to get their products to market.

TIME TO STOP DAYLIGHT SAVING?

Not everyone is a fan of Daylight Saving Time. In fact, it's safe to say a lot of people dread it. In the winter, turning back the clocks means that the evenings are even darker and we lose an hour of daylight in the late afternoon. Even the most ardent believer of "winter is the best season" would struggle to argue that it's nice when it gets dark at 3.00 pm. Public opinion has also turned. A 2020 poll in the US found that two-thirds of registered voters (66 percent) want to scrap Daylight saving time, while just 14 percent want to keep it. 

Some have suggested that Daylight Saving Time has some potential perils. Studies have suggested that putting the clocks back in the autumn might increase the number of car accidents since many motorists will have much darker commutes home. Meanwhile, some research indicates that putting back the clocks in autumn may increase the symptoms of seasonal depression for some people.

Europe has strongly toyed with the idea of scrapping it altogether. In 2018, the European Parliament voted to end Daylight Saving Time after a poll of 4.8 million Europeans showed overwhelming support for ditching it. The law was meant to come into effect in 2021, but it was pushed down the agenda due to COVID-19.

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact-checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.

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