The Daily Parker

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US lurches to ending seasonal clock changes

As if from nowhere, the US Senate yesterday unanimously voted to pass S.623 (the "Sunshine Protection Act of 2021"), which would end daylight saving time by making that the new standard time, effective 5 November 2023. This blew up the Time Zone Committee mailing list, mostly with the implementation problems around time zone abbreviations. One of the maintainers listed four separate options, in fact, including moving everyone to a new time zone (Chicago on EST? New York on AST?), or possibly just redefining what CST and EST mean. Canada has a law that essentially lets the US set standard time zones for Canada, so it gets even more complicated the farther down the rabbit hole you go.

Fun fact: most time zone software running on most computers requires 3-character time zone abbreviations to work correctly. That rules out changing CST to, simply, CT. One maintainer suggested P for Permanent; another suggested A for Always (CAT, EAT, MAT?).

You might think this is funny, but we TZDB maintainers have the power to make your brain hurt this way.

By the way, if you think year-round DST is a good idea within our current time zone boundaries, you may want to consider when the latest sunrise will happen in 2024 if the law passes, in ascending order of orneriness:

Location Sunrise Sunset
Eastport, Maine 8:06 17:00
Miami 8:10 18:50
Chicago 8:19 17:33
New York 8:20 17:41
Salt Lake City 8:52 17:13
Detroit 9:01 18:12
Menominee, Mich. 9:29 18:21

The easternmost point in the U.S., Eastport, will have darker mornings, but still perhaps tolerable. Menominee, which actually lies a little west of Chicago, would not be a fun place to live in January.

To review: There is a reason we change the clocks twice a year, which everyone forgets until it's dark at 8:30 am.

Moreover, wall-clock time is arbitrary. We can get up earlier or later if we choose to. Cassie, for instance, gets up at sunrise, and expects me to do the same, so I actually liked the change last weekend.

We also had a bunch of messages today about Iran, which has decreed that they will no longer change their clocks twice a year, with immediate effect. Now someone in Iran has to tell the authoritarian, anti-technology mullahs why it might take up to a year for their cell phones to reflect the change.

Comments (1) -

  • David Harper

    3/17/2022 7:28:20 AM +00:00 |

    When Britain experimented with year-round daylight saving time between 1968 and 1971, it was called British Standard Time, so the abbreviation was the same as British Summer Time.  Both versions of BST were, of course, GMT+1.
    There was surprisingly little objection to year-round DST from the public, except in Scotland, where the Sun didn't rise in winter until after 9 a.m. in many places, and not until 10 a.m. on the far north.  Postal delivery workers also didn't like it, as they had to work longer in the darkness in winter, and there were objections from the construction industry on safety grounds, because ice would not have had time to thaw by the start of the working day.
    Nonetheless, in a debate in Parliament in late 1970, there was an overwhelming majority in favour of ending the experiment and reverting to the twice-yearly clock change.  There have been several attempts to revive the idea of year-round DST, but there has never been the political impetus to do it.  If the House approves the Sunshine Protection Act, we will watch the U.S. experience with interest.

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