Daylight crazy time

(Photo by Khairul Nizam)

Daylight Savings Time (DST) ends this weekend, in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

It’s cool that 2 a.m. Saturday night suddenly becomes 1 a.m., so that an hour of official existence simply repeats like a scene in Groundhog Day. This has apparently seemed sufficiently unfair or confusing that several states want nothing to do with it: They stay on Standard Time throughout the year.

Too bad for them. The mornings are getting too dark for the school kids. It’s time to shift some of this gloom into the late afternoon, when more people can be awake and aware of the depressing darkness. Even without clock shenanigans, we’re helpless in the face of the ever-lengthening night. Sunset has crept earlier by nearly three hours in just the past 13 weeks.

Meanwhile, the noonday Sun sinks lower by four of its diameters weekly. This shrinks solar intensity, not just duration. Coming in at a puny 30-degree angle this weekend, the midday Sun now barely warms the ground. No wonder not much hot air is rising diurnally, which explains November’s thunderstorm absence.

In 1986, Daylight Time was decreed to begin the first Sunday in April; before that it was the final Sunday. Then, in 2006, Congress changed it yet again. Starting in 2007, DST commenced the second Sunday of March and ended the first Sunday of November, which added a full month to its annual observance. One big consequence is that the initial hour of Halloween revelry now unfolds in daylight.

In fact, Congress has changed DST’s dates five times since most of us were kids. These frequent alterations don’t help make the dates any easier to remember. Thank goodness for those zombielike atomic clocks that spookily make the switch on their own while we’re sleeping.

DST has always been a mess, ever since it was first adopted in 1918. The idea was so unpopular that it was eliminated after World War I, when Congress overrode President Woodrow Wilson’s veto and killed it over his objections.

It’s still a mess. For example, it is not observed in Arizona – except that it is observed there on lands of the Navajo Nation.

Even where it’s observed, it’s not particularly logical. To achieve a symmetrical distribution of sunlight, the starting and ending dates should lie equidistant from the December 21 Solstice, which of course they do not. The dates make no sense, and never have. That Congress gets away with such irrationality probably surprises no one.

Want to know more? To read Bob Berman’s previous “Night Sky” columns, visit our Almanac Weekly website at HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.

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