4 Things to Know About Daylight Savings Time

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Sunrise will arrive an hour later after clocks spring forward for Daylight Savings Time on March 11. Here the sun comes up over the beach at Wildwood, New Jersey, in a National Wildlife Photo Contest entry from Daniel Gillespie.
The time for our clocks to spring forward is almost upon us—the second Sunday in March, when we move our timepieces one hour head at 2 a.m.

Although Daylight Savings Time (DST) is all about time, it actually has a pretty short history. Here are four things you may not know about time shifting:

  1. DST was first proposed by George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand entomologist (student of insects) who wanted more evening daylight for collecting bugs after work. He gave a paper on the subject to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895, urging a two-hour time shift, but the time change didn’t happen.
  2. The first DST was initiated by Germany and its allies during World War I to move sunset later into the day and thus put bedtime and sunset closer today, which was expected to save coal used for heating. The United States first used DST in 1918, also to save fuel during the war, and revived it in 1942 to help save energy during World War II.
  3. In the United States, from 1945 to 1966 state and local governments set the DST schedule. Congress passed the Uniform Time Act in 1966, making DST begin nationally on the last Sunday in April and end the last Sunday in October; but any area of the nation could opt out by passing a local ordinance. The time for starting and ending DST has varied over the years.
  4. A 1970s study concluded that DST cuts electricity usage about 1 percent for each day it is in effect, the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil at that time. A 2008 report to Congress concluded that DST cuts back electricity use 0.5 percent nationally—enough electricity to power 100,000 households for a year. But hold on—a 2007 study in California found that DST there reduced energy use only 0.2 percent, which was within the statistical margin of error (1.5 percent). An Indiana study in 2006 concluded that statewide DST caused a 1 percent rise in residential electricity use and cost the state $9 million. So does DST save energy? The jury is still out.

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The photos accompanying this blog were donated by participants in the annual National Wildlife Photo Contest. See more photos or sign up for the 42nd Annual National Wildlife Photo Contest.

Published: March 7, 2012