Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday.
This year, thanks to a calendrical coincidence, Santa Claritans will get a little extra buffer against the alarm clock waiting on the other side of Halloween festivities. At 2 a.m. on November 1, clocks throughout the Pacific time zone will revert to 1 a.m., bringing Daylight Saving Time (DST) to an end in preparation for lengthening winter nights.
Because days lengthen and shorten with the changing seasons, DST allows people to enjoy longer summer nights and saves energy as well. Near the equator, this effect is greatly diminished, with days remaining approximately 12 hours long year-round. As a result, many tropical areas, including Hawaii, remain on standard time year-round. Arizona also does not observe DST.
In the United States, time zones changes in sequence, as each reaches the 1:59 a.m. mark and falls back to 1 a.m. Clocks across the European Union all change at the same instant, with each time zone jumping one hour from its corresponding time.
Originally conceived by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, DST did not become instituted in the United States until near the end of World War I, when energy conservation was thought to aid the war efforts of the combatant nations. Ironically, the change didn’t happen overnight. Use of DST across the country became spotty and inconsistent, resulting in at least one bus route encountering 7 time changes in 35 miles. Not until 1966 was it finally standardized when President Johnson signed the Uniform Time Act.
Rationales for the use of DST include recreation facilitation and energy savings. It works great for barbeques, making more time to just kill time. And by shifting activities to daylight hours, fewer electric lights need to be used. During the oil shortages of the 1970s, DST was extended by a few months, saving thousands of barrels of oil.
Still, opinions on the use of DST vary greatly. About 70 nations use some form of the policy, which has created not a little confusion over the years. The temporal anomaly created by arbitrarily changing clocks has led to mass confusion, draft dodging, and has even been accused of affecting voter turnout.
Confusion about DST even thwarted a terrorist plot once. In 1999, the West Bank was still on Daylight Saving Time, while Israel had already reverted to standard time. Bombs that had been prepared in the West Bank were to be put in place by terrorists in Israel, who remained unaware of the time difference. As a result, the bombs detonated one hour early, killing the terrorists and missing their intended targets.
So have a happy Halloween and an exciting extra hour. And maybe spare a thought for this practice that continues to be debated and fine-tuned to make the best use of all the time in the world.