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Mysteries of Time Change & Time Zones

Confused about why we change our clocks and learn some of the unusual time zone issues around the U.S. & the world.
Global Time Zone Map
Global Time Zone Map
Arizona has different time for its general area, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Nation during summer. (National Atlas of the United States)
Arizona has different time for its general area, the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Nation during summer. (National Atlas of the United States)
For millenia man has dealt with the strange concept of time. 

This will be an attempt to exam the unique qualities of modern day time and a look at some of it's more unusual quirks and at least one new attempt to twist time.

Global Time Zones

We begin with the 'gentleman's agreement.' 

According to the United Nations, time is not something that the world fights over so if a nation wants to change it's place in time outside of the 24 hour clock, that all nations have accepted, then they have that right and that change is instantly approved without objection. 

The most recent example of a nation changing the way they measure time was the island nation of Kiribati (pronounced Keer-a-bass).  Back in 1999 it approached the United Nations informing them that they were going to change days.  Now it is important to understand the island nation is located right along the International Date Line (also known as the IDL).  So their small nation was divided into two days.  Originally the IDL was a straight line across the vast ocean waters of the Pacific and the individual islands that fell on either side were on different days but one hour apart.  For example if you were on an island to the right (east) of the line it would be 6pm Friday but if you were to go a few miles to the left (west) to another island and cross the IDL it would be 5pm Saturday.  This system worked for a very long time.

But Kiribati wanted to be the first place on earth to enter the 21st century otherwise known as the year 2000.  (Yes, I hear you teachers out there speaking up that the 21st century didn't begin until 2001...but thats a story and argument for another 'time'...pardon the pun).  So they put their entire island grouped nation into the new year by a geographic span of two hours.  Therefore the new IDL became a relatively straight line down the open waters of the Pacific Ocean onto the continent of Antarctica but now with a large right pushing box, two hours into the old day or in this case the old year.  For a map, it helps to see these things visually go to the link "Time And Date Dot Com" listed to the right or the picture attached, just look for the thick red line that is the IDL.  Notice how the line juts to the right boxing in the nation of Kiribati.

Now the other locations around the world but specifically around the area of Kiribati had strong objections and took their concern to the United Nations.  They said that the nation of Kiribati was taking illegal unilateral action to acquire economic gain by being the 'new' area that would be the first to enter the 21st century.  In addition Kiribati, in relative terms compared to the massive size of the Pacific Ocean, is close to Hawaii.  So it would make it possible (with the right amount of money $$) to welcome the new year 2000 (or any new year, decade or century for that matter) and fly to Hawaii in plenty of time to take a nap and then get up and celebrate the welcoming of the new year for a second time.

Well the United Nations with approval from the governing nations of the U.N. assembly decided that time was not something worth fighting over nor creating legislation to dictate to nations how to follow time and that there was a "gentleman's agreement" that a nations 'time' is up to each individual nation.

So to this day it stands that Kiribati is always the first nation to enter a new day, month, year, decade, century and possible the next millennium.

Time Zone Anomalies

Many folks believe the world is divided into 24 time zones, one for each hour on the clock for a calendar day.  But in reality this is not true.  Many nations have secondary time zones that change the clock by only 30 minutes.  The nearest nation to the United States of America that does this is Canada.  The province of Newfoundland and Labrador island section is 30 minutes ahead of its nearby provinces.  This means that the first location of the North American continent enter the new year at 9:30 Central Time.

Some nations have tertiary time zones with a difference of just 15 minutes.  Some of the nations that practice this include Australia, India and Pakistan.

And time doesn't always flow from one zone to another, sometimes you have to turn the clock one direction when you are traveling another direction.  Want some examples?

Let's take the state of Arizona.  Arizona is in Mountain Time.  This means that locations in Arizona are one hour behind Texoma, so if it is 10am here it is 9am there and in California, which is in the Pacific Time Zone (one hour behind Arizona) it is 8am.  But then when it comes time to change the clocks for Daylight Saving Time things get a little bit...well...complicated. The state of Arizona does not observe DST, just like Hawaii doesn't either and up until recently the state of Indiana didn't observe DST.  But part of the state DOES observe DST and that is the land designated as the Navajo Nation in the northeast part of the state.  So when it comes to the summer in most of Arizona it is 9am on Mountain Standard Time but then if you travel into the Navajo Nation it becomes 10am on Mountain Daylight Time.  Since the Navajo nation has an undulating border you can actually travel west to a time that is ahead of you...did that make sense?  Well let me confuse you even more.  Within the Navajo Nation is the Hopi Nation and they DO NOT follow DST so when you travel into their land which is completely located within the Navajo Nation you then subtract the hour once again.  It's like playing time zone roulette.

Tennessee On Canada Time?

While Arizona and Hawaii don't follow Daylight Saving Time the other states do.  But it might not be that way in the future.  Currently there is a bill in the Tennessee State House with the intent on stopping the process of advancing and backtracking the clock through the year.  The bill would take effect on July 1st, 2014.  This means that Tennessee would not move their clocks back one hour in the autumn making Daylight Saving Time permanent. It sounds simple enough but there would be real complications.  Tennessee is divided into two time zones, Eastern Time Zone for the eastern counties and Central Time Zone in the western counties.  This means that 'if' the bill would become law, and a lot of the details aren't quite clear yet, the Eastern Time Zone counties would not move their clocks back in the autumn but the surrounding states such as Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia would move their clocks back.  This would put eastern Tennessee one hour ahead of all the surrounding states.  For all practical purposes it would put eastern Tennessee on Atlantic Time during the winter, the time zone that covers far eastern Canada.  It would also put eastern Tennessee one hour ahead of the entire east coast.  It would also mean that traveling east into North Carolina you would turn your clock back one hour.  Confusing? Um yep!

Daylight Saving Time (DST)

But one thing is true for a majority of the United States and all of Texoma.  We turn our clocks forward one hour to begin Daylight Saving Time the second Sunday in March.  And we turn our clocks back one hour the first Sunday of November.  Here are a few facts about DST.
  • Daylight Saving Time began in the U.S. in 1918. 
  • Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. begins at 2:00:00am local time.
  • The first location to instate the rule of Daylight Saving Time was Germany  in  1916.

KFDX Bryan Rupp
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