Year-round daylight time is not needed. Year-round standard time with local communities making their own decisions about the placement of the clock’s hour hand is a better choice than the late sunrises that daylight time creates. Year-round or not, a different approach may yield better results.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
From the beginning, here’s the conclusion, for more northerly latitudes, there’s no daylight to save during the months with the least daylight. Southern states do not need their sunshine protected. They already have ample daylight to make it through the shortest daylight periods of the year.
Recently, the US Senate passed a bill (The Sunshine Protection Act) for year-round daylight time. We did this once before during the 1970s and we did not like it. The two-year plan was disliked by the public so much after the first year, Congress repealed the second year of the test.
The current bill’s co-sponsors are Marco Rubio (Florida) and Patty Murray (Washington). Rubio lives in Miami – hardly a wasteland of short daylight throughout the year. Murray hails from Bothell, Washington.
During October 2021, an article was published in these pages noting key elements of the daylight-saving-time question. I break the 24-hour period into three parts. Obviously, daytime occurs when the sun is above the horizon and illuminating the ground. Twilight occurs before sunrise or after sunset. Darkness occurs after the end of evening twilight and the beginning of morning twilight. Naturally, the night gets no darker.
Comparing the length of daylight and the length of darkness is a better comparison.
At Chicago’s latitude, darkness is longer than daylight from about Halloween to nearly mid-February – lasting over 100 days.
Looking at the two Senators’ sunrise times along with sunset and twilight times produced by the US Naval Observatory, here’s what the sunshine data looks like. For Miami, Florida, darkness (10 hours, 38 minutes) is longer than daylight for 40 days. The shortest daylight is 10 hours, 32 minutes from December 15-25. The earliest sunrise from January 6 through19 is 7:09 a.m. EST. Year-round daylight time puts it at 8:09 a.m. EDT. The earliest sunset is 5:29 p.m. EST, November 25 through December 4, before and through the beginning of the phase when there is more darkness.
Miami does not have a sunshine problem that needs protection. The least amount of daylight is over 10 hours, 30 minutes. That’s enough time for commuting and a workday. Daylight time is not needed.
From the article published last year, Cocoa, Florida, only suffers from 59 days of more darkness than daylight. The entire state does not need its sunshine protected. It has ample daylight.
In comparison, for Bothell, Washington at latitude 47° north, darkness is longer than daylight from October 26 through February 15 for 112 days. The shortest daylight, eight hours, twenty-five minutes occurs from December 16 through December 26, nearly two hours shorter than Miami. The latest sunrise is 7:58 a.m. PST, 8:58 a.m. if daylight time becomes year-round. The earliest sunset is 4:17 p.m. PST, from December 5 through 17.
During the cold season at this latitude, there is simply no daylight to save. The sky is either dark in the morning or during the evening. One end of the human activity period is without the sun.
There’s another interesting effect at the summer solstice that Florida does not get. Daylight lasts sixteen hours, with the sun rising at 5:10 a.m. PDT and setting at 9:10 p.m. PDT. Because of the more northerly latitude, twilight lasts nearly six hours, thirty minutes and darkness is about 90 minutes long. During the warmer season, Bothell and more northerly latitudes do not need daylight saving time. There is ample daylight and lots of brighter twilight.
In our 2021 recap, Juneau, Alaska, suffers for 120 days of more darkness than daylight. It was observed that from April 27 through August 15, there is no darkness – only daylight and twilight.
It is important to note that “DST (Daylight Saving Time) is simply a work-time arrangement,” from a paper from the European Union published at the National Institutes of Health (nih.org). We change our clocks to have more daylight during the evening hours, when there’s daylight available to shift. The arrangement would work better if the clocks returned to year-round standard time to allow companies, schools, and families determine their own schedules.
The authors of the study cite myths around DST, including one that shifting the clock one hour ahead creates an extra hour of daylight. Rather, it moves time one time zone eastward. The authors conclude, that countries should consider “Obliterating DST (in favor of permanent Standard Time) and reassigning countries and regions to their actual sun-clock based time zones. Under such adjustment, social (local) clock time will match sun clock time and therefore body clock time most closely.”
Companies and other organizations can provide flexible work times or change their shifts if their employees want “longer evenings” at particular times of the year. The authors advocate for year-round standard time.
Again, regardless of the time interval that is studied across many days with short daylight, there is no daylight to save during the cold months, when 8.5 hours of work (including a meal break) and an hour of commuting time, 30 minutes each way, are factored in. Recall that DST is simply a work-time arrangement.
Consider that year-round daylight time was in effect only one year, 1974. Critics of year-round daylight time often cite the deaths of eight children as a reason to turn back the clocks in autumn. Often public policy is driven by such dramatic events. Even private lives are guided by profound personal events that families might say that “we’re not doing that again.”
Keeping standard time and allowing organizations to modify their own work calendars gives immediate and local control to those the decision affects. Further a relook at the time zone dimensions to connect them to regional and local work and social patterns is worth a consideration. What works in Boston is not necessarily effective in Grand Rapids. Both are in the same time zone, but nearly an hour apart according to the sun’s travel. The same for North Platte, Nebraska and Ogallala, Nebraska. They are about 50 miles and a time zone apart. So, in conclusion: There’s no daylight to save during the cold months for more northerly latitudes and no need for daylight time across the southern tier of states. DST is simply a work-time arrangement. This issue might be better resolved with a return to year-round standard time, allowing local schools, businesses, and families decide their own summertime and wintertime schedules. In the long-term, a national study of how time zones better fit solar time and personal time would help policy makers decide whether time zone realignment is necessary, rather than considering year-round daylight time. Let’s just delete the idea of year-round daylight time. We can have more daylight in the evening through year-round standard time with localities and organizations determining their own schedules. The House of Representatives should not take this bill any further. DST should end, permanently.
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