Spring officially began in the Northern Hemisphere back on March 20th, the Vernal Equinox. This marks the moment in time when the sun was directly overhead at the Equator, providing 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness for most of our planet.
Our Seasons are tied to the tilt of the earth and our orientation to the sun, as Earth makes its annual 365-day trip around the sun. That trip and that orientation do not change very much. What does change throughout the year is the length of our day, and bi-annually, our clocks.
Standard to Daylight Time
A week prior to the Vernal Equinox, on March 13th, 2022, we changed from Mountain Standard Time (MST) to Mountain Daylight Time (MDT), more universally referred to as Daylight Saving Time. We will go back to standard time again on November 6th, 2022, for roughly 4.5 months during the winter season.
It sounds like next March will be the last time we make that bi-annual switch. Starting in the spring of 2023 the entire United States will stay on Daylight Saving Time, year-round. That is courtesy of the United States Senate, which unanimously passed the Sunlight Protection Act on March 16th, 2022.
This bill was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose state lies mostly south of 30-degrees North Latitude. Which, as you’ll see, will be minimally affected by this change.
This bill still must be approved by Congress, we just don’t know when that might come up in front of them for a vote.
This didn’t make big news, but here is how it will affect us here in Jackson, and elsewhere, with a little history on Standard Time vs. Daylight Saving Time.
Spring Ahead and Fall Back
We have a long and confusing history behind the use of Daylight Saving Time, or DST. The old adage, “spring ahead and fall back” has been ingrained in most everyone’s head, at least since the use of DST was brought permanently into law in 1966 with the passing of the Uniform Time Act.
Originally, DST was in effect for 7 months, beginning on the first Sunday in April and ending on the last Sunday in October. In 2005 Congress extended DST to run from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.
DST doesn’t change the length of day, but it does shift the clock so that we are utilizing the daylight hours to their best possible advantage. We really noticed that extra hour of darkness we got in the mornings this month, after the change to DST. Although, by mid-April we’ll be back to where we left off, with sunrise times that will be the same as what we had here in Jackson during the second week of March, when it was still standard time.
Switching to DST for the summer months provides us more daylight later in the day, ostensibly so we can be out doing things later into the evening hours. Things like playing baseball, softball and soccer, or hiking, biking and sitting on the porch reading a newspaper. Instead of spending those evening hours indoors with lights burning and televisions blaring.
The drawback is, without the usual fallback to standard time during the winter months, we’ll see an extra hour of darkness in the mornings.
If we remained on standard time all summer here in Jackson, at Latitude 43-degrees North, we would see the sun rising at 4:42 AM in mid-June, an hour earlier than we currently have under Daylight Saving Time. That’s probably way too early for most folks to get out of bed.
Although, it would allow time to get out for a hike, bike or a run early in the day, before work, when temps are cooler. Instead of waiting until the end of the day, when it’s hotter.
Under standard time, during the shortest days of the year in late December, official sunrise here in Jackson occurs around 7:56 AM. Under Daylight Saving Time the sun won’t be up until 8:56 AM.
That will make our mornings feel like we live in Alaska. It will mean, waiting for the school bus in the dark, waiting in lift-lines for the ski area to open, in the dark. And for backcountry skiers and snowboarders on Teton Pass, “dawn patrols” will become entirely pre-dawn patrols.
On the other end of the day, during the shortest days of the winter, sunset will happen an hour later. Instead of going down before 5:00 PM, it will be going down a little before 6:00 PM. Which could mean getting home before it is dark.
Perhaps as we adapt to that change of light in winter, we’ll adjust the opening times for schools, ski areas and local businesses forward one hour in winter. We’ll see.
DST Not Universal
The seasonal time changes that we’ve been accustomed to are most effective for those of us living between about 35- and 55-Degrees North Latitude, roughly between southern Utah and Southern Canada. Far northern latitudes are less affected because it is light for so long in summer and dark so long in winter, so standard or daylight time makes little difference.
In more southern latitudes, the length of day is more consistent throughout the year and is similar to what we see here in Jackson around the Equinoxes. In the U.S., Hawaii and most of Arizona currently stay on standard time all year long. Next year, I suppose those states will switch to using DST all year.
Globally, the majority of countries use standard time all year. Less than 40% of the of the world makes a change to Daylight Saving Time. Of those countries that make the change to DST, many of them have different start and stop dates, further adding to the time confusion.
As recently as March of 2019 some European nations have proposed eliminating Daylight Saving Time and sticking with standard time, all year long. So, if you are a world traveler, keeping track of the local time could get even more challenging in the future.
The reality for most of us is, we’ll probably get used to the change in time. After a few years of year-round Daylight Saving Time, it will probably all seem pretty normal.
Personally, it would make way more sense to me, especially for those of us who live in-between 35 and 55 degrees North Latitude – or most of the Continental United States – to just stay on standard time all year. If you can’t deal with changing back and forth between standard and daylight time twice a year.
Jim is the chief meteorologist at mountainweather.com and has forecast the weather in Jackson Hole for the over 30 years. Portions of this article first appearedin teh Jakson Hole News & Guide.