How We Keep Time In Zones
Why do we have time zones
Time Zones define and establish the appropriate time within individual countries and regions, having an enormous impact on business, communication, and world management.
Every country may have a particular standard time zone, which is convenient for its world cooperation due to different factors. The standard time zone is a specific region where the local or national authorities unify the time for a particular goal. The time zones obey specific rules referring to geographical principles of longitude. The standard time appears to be a tool used by the whole world to facilitate the processes of people’s life.
In this regard, one should understand how the standard is defined. Firstly, the Greenwich meridian becomes central in determining the time. The distance east or west from it adds or takes one hour, whereas, under the scientific model of standard time, the zone covers every 15 degrees of the longitude1. The longitude, being the geographical coordinate of the point on the Earth regarding the East or West, helps to reflect the impact of the Sun. In particular, if the Earth rotates 360 degrees in 24 hours, it means that it takes 15 degrees every hour.
How time Zones were introduced?
Despite the necessity of standardized time, people could not agree on it for a long time. The first place for debate became England, where the railroad community started their fight for the general rules for all cities. They were the first to apply the standard time within the boundaries of the country. In particular, the Railway Clearing House, the transportation institution in Great Britain, accepted Greenwich Meridian Time as universal within the whole railroad system of the country in 1847.
The Father of Standard Time was Sir Sandford Fleming, who introduced 24 time zones standard and recommended it to to the Royal Canadian Institute in 1879. However, his ideas were slowly adapting. Even the U.S. railroad community accepted Standard Time in 1883; the Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern zones were appropriately used only by 1895, while the Standard Time Act came into force in 19182.
How many time zones are there in the world?
The acceptance and application of the idea of time zones took almost a century. Initially, the world was divided into 24 standard time zones which extend from the South Pole to North Pole. However, governments often set time differently. They try to reflect not only the positions of the sun regarding the surface, but inner processes within the regions. That’s why there are much more than 24 timezones, because every country may have a particular standard time zone, which is convenient for its world cooperation due to different factors. According to our list of world time zones which is based on IANA time zone database, there are about 200 time zones in the world.
The modern standard: UTC
The UTC measure is the international time standard and scale. It is managed by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), considering the rotation of the Earth and scientific parameters3. Each of the European zones, as well as the other, are defined by the UTC offset. In general, there is a difference between the Coordinated Universal Time and the specific place in hours or minutes. For instance, the UTC offset in France will have UTC+1, as it is one hour ahead of the Coordinated Universal Time related to Greenwich Time.
More information about UTC and it’s difference with GMT
It provides a system for different countries which reflect the geographical position and sun location to meet the needs of societies. At the same time, due to different geographical, social, and political reasons, the time zones may deviate from the universal standards and recommendations set by the international institutions or Universal time. For example, some countries have a colonial past and territories miles away from the governing center, like France, the country having most time zones in the world; others are too big to refer only to one time zone. In the end, every area has its peculiarities dictated by the Sun and history.
Daylight Saving Time
The framework of Daylight Saving Time (DST) was proposed by Benjamin Franklin, when being in Paris, and is concerned with advancing the standard time within the region or zone by one hour to enhance the number of daylight4.
The main reasons behind are simple. They relate to energy saving, leisure opportunities and harmonization of movement of goods and services, being first used during the First World War5. The daylight offered more light resulting in reduction of electricity use and encouraging people to spend time outside. Therefore, the concept became vital for many countries, affecting their societies and leading to time zones’ shift. As it finds application nowadays, it impacts the existing UTC offset of the zones mentioned above by adding one extra hour. It produces summer versions of the zones. For example, the Western European Summer time would follow UTC+1, Central European Summer Time would equal to UTC+2, while Eastern European Summer time would offer UTC+3. Finally , the Daylight concept expands the established time zones and defines their application regarding the summer time.
Certain countries abstain from using the particular scheme having their time standard unchanged. For instance, Iceland, Russia, Turkey, China, Japan, and India are not following these concepts. At the same time, in the European Union it is regulated on the legal level. In particular, subject to the current orders, the time is changed on the last Sunday in March to establish summer time, and on last Sunday in October, to cancel it; nevertheless, the EU members are likely to manage it on their own after 2021.
Notably, some countries have given solution on the particular matter decades ago. Ireland has adopted the special act in 1971 for addition of the summer time into the previous law on Standard Time6. As a result, the summer time appears to be a choice of governments due to economic and public reasons, affecting the time zones system.
We provide more details on how DST works in this article.
Time Zones on different continents
Time in Europe
The current time system of Europe is concerned with 4 different time zones, not taking into account the Summer Time deviation. They refer to Western European Time, Central European Time, Eastern European Time, and Further Eastern European Time zones.
The Europe Time Zone map and more information on european time zones.
How many zones are there in the United States
The modern United States is known to have nine time zones. The legal system defines them and reflects nine different parts of the United States. Subject to the law, there are Eastern, Atlantic, Mountain, Central, Pacific, Alaska, Hawaii-Aleutian, Samoa, and Chamorro zones7. They span all over the country and refer to offsets ranging from UTC-11 to UTC-4 and correspond to the vast size of the United States.
However, one should understand that some of them are only applicable to certain small territories, while almost the whole country is subject to the six time zones. In this regard, an American can outline the following zones, where the majority of the population lives: Eastern (UTC-5), Central (UTC-6), Mountain (UTC-7), Pacific (UTC-8), Alaska (UTC-9), and Hawaii-Aleutian (UTC-10).
The US Time Zone map and more information on time zones in the United States.
Time in Antarctica
Antarctica contemplates the South Pole, which, due to positioning in the Southern Hemisphere, touches all longitudes and time zones. The time zones in Antarctica are mostly defined by the social and international factors. The settlements and scientific stations establish time order as each station represent certain country.
Also, sometimes Antarctic stations set the time in accordance with the zones of the closest countries. There are not so many permanent bases but those which work bring variety to the time zones’ regulation.
Specifically, the U.S. Palmer station uses UTC-3 Chile Summer time zone; the Norwegian Troll station applies Central European Time zone (UTC+2); the Australian Mawson settlement follows UTC+5, while the Davis base and Casey station have UTC+7 and UTC+11 respectively; the Russian Vostok station has UTC+6; the Argentinian Carlini Base base is under UTC-3; the Italian Mario Zucchelli station is subject to New Zealand UTC+13 standard8.
Asia Time Zones
In comparison to Antarctica and even Europe, Asia has much more population and territory. It makes the issue of time zones in Asia even more crucial. In a particular area, there are such countries as China, India, and Russia, which have one of the most extensive indicators of population and territory. Besides, the Asian countries provide compelling cases of using UTC, having the offset in minutes, and not in hours as the general practice contemplates. Despite all the peculiarities, the time zones of Asia are defined by the political and administrative needs of the states.
“Strange” Time Zones
A number of countries have a deviating practice. One of the explanations is that the countries cross the time zones. For example, the border between India and Nepal provides a 15 minutes difference, as India has UTC+5.5, while Nepal, being a bit further on the East, follows UTC+5.75. The explanation is simple as the countries span across the +5/+6 line. Burma, Afghanistan, and Iraq experience similar issues having the UTC+6,5, UTC+4,5, UTC 3,5, respectively. Many may question their practice. Nonetheless, it works well for them. Another compelling case provides Russia and China. They are great countries with an enormous population. In this regard, Russia has 11 time zones expanding from Moscow to Kamchatka through Caucasus. Also, some nations take the whole continents, like Australia. It made the government establish three time zones Eastern Standard Time (UTC+10), Central Eastern Time (UTC+9.5), Western Standard Time (UTC+8)9. Such a fact underlines that the whole continent is unlikely to live under one time zones. By that, the geographical principles make timekeeping more complicated in these countries due to their location and size.
Nonetheless, geography is not the only reason for the skewing of time zones. There are political factors, as well. The example of China and North Korea are exciting to observe. China, despite crossing five time zones, has a standard established in 1949, which refers to UTC+8. It is hard to imagine that the nation of such size lives under the one-time zone. Indeed, it leads to the fact that one may observe the sun rising at 9am in winter. And the explanation is quite surprising. Before 1949, there were five time zones, while the government established the one to support the myth of unified China. Another political decision refers to North Korea. Although the decision did not act long, they switched time to UTC 8+30 in 2015 to underline their independence from Japanese rule after the Second World War. It shows how Asian countries used the time for their political interests, not considering the problems it may cause for people. In the end, the skewing of time is a phenomenon that has its natural and artificial causes and may create concerns for the population.
Time, Calendar day and Flying
This international date line, geographically located in the Pacific Ocean, determines the change of the calendar day. If a person crosses the line traveling westward, for him or her, it will be the next calendar day in the place of destination. \ At the same time, if the person’s movement contemplates crossing in by flying eastward, he or she would return to the previous calendar day at the destination point10. By that, when the a person flies from Honolulu to Tokyo in the morning, Tuesday becomes Wednesday. Besides, all timetables are adjusted not only to this principle but to all of the time zones, daylight saving time, and random offsets.
The appearance of the time zones made the world less confused and helped to keep the time. However, it is not as easy as it seems due to numerous areas, factors, concepts, and consequences.
- Kosciejew, R. J. (2014). The Treadmills of Time, Author House. p.128
- Morgan, M. K.The Geographical Teacher, vol. 13, no. 2, 1925, pp. 115–120 at Jstor
- Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) (CCTF/09-32)(PDF), Bureau International des Poids et Mesures
- Time: From Earth Rotation to Atomic Physics, McCarthy Dennis and Seidelmann Kenneth, 2018.
- The Application of Summertime in Europe, A Report to the DG MOVE, European Commission, 2014
- Standard Time (Amendment) Act, 1971
- Title 15 of the United States Code 15, USC §260
- Antarctica and the Arctic: The Complete Encyclopedia, McGonigal David, 2001.
- Time Differences UK/Australia, Australian High Commission, uk.embassy.gov.au
- Selling Destinations: Geography for the Travel Professional, Mancini M., 2004