When in 2023 do we have to turn our clocks back?

The clocks in the United Kingdom fall back by one hour on the last Sunday in October.

Will I gain or lose an hour in bed?  

It may seem like a long time since the summer skies, but the moment the clocks are set back marks the end of British Summer Time (BST). The good news is that it also means an extra hour in bed.

Consider the seasons to remember which way the clocks change: in the spring, the clocks'spring forward,' while in the autumn, they 'fall back.'

Most internet-connected devices, such as smartphones, computers, and other digital devices, should automatically update.

Will I have to change my clocks?

Some watches and clocks, such as those in cars and kitchens, may not change automatically, so be prepared to wind back.

Louise Devoy, Curator of the Royal Observatory, explains what happens in Greenwich when the clocks change:

Actually, when the clocks change, I have very little work to do. We purposefully keep the majority of our historic clocks set to GMT all year because they were primarily used prior to the implementation of daylight saving time in 1916. Visitors to the Observatory in the summer are frequently perplexed by the apparent delay displayed on the Shepherd Gate Clock, but as Britain's first public clock to display GMT, we're proud to carry on this tradition.

Our Dolphin sundial, which needs to be adjusted four times a year: at the solstices (June and December) and when the clocks change (March and October), is the most noticeable change.

Dolphin sundial.png?itok=eDe3cN4r

The Dolphin Dial at the Royal Observatory is always accurate to the nearest minute due to the use of different dial rims for Greenwich Mean Time and British Summer Time, as well as two different hour-plates with the hour-lines marked.  

This change pattern was chosen because it occurs on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, making it the least disruptive option for schools and businesses.  

What if I'm at work when the clocks go back?

Of course, not everyone is asleep at 2 a.m.; employees scheduled to work a night shift at this time may find themselves working an extra hour when the clocks reset to 1 a.m.

Night workers are frequently advised to review their contracts and consult with their employers about the situation. Night workers, on the other hand, are only allowed to work an average of 8 hours per day.

Do other countries adjust their clocks?

Around 70 countries practice some form of daylight saving time, though it varies by region.

Many parts of Europe and North America, as well as South America and Australasia, adjust their clocks. However, many African and Asian countries near the equator do not change the time.

The United States observes daylight saving time, but not all states change their clocks. Except for the semi-autonomous Navajo Nation, Arizona and Hawaii do not use DST. In 2006, Indiana implemented Daylight Saving Time.

The clocks in the United States will be set back on November 5, 2023.

The European Parliament backed a proposal in March 2019 to end the practice of changing the clocks in European Union member states. The proposal was supposed to be introduced in 2021, but the amendment has yet to take legal effect. EU member states continue to observe daylight saving time.

The clocks are set back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which was in effect before British Summer Time began in March.

What exactly is Greenwich Mean Time?

The Evolution of Daylight Saving Time

Daylight savings time, also known as summer time, is a mechanism used to capitalize on increased summer daylight hours in the northern hemisphere.

Benjamin Franklin proposed daylight saving time in a whimsical article in 1784.

William Willett, an Englishman and keen horse rider, campaigned in 1907 to advance clocks in the spring and summer and return them in the autumn. His convoluted plan called for clocks to be advanced by 80 minutes in four separate moves of 20 minutes each.

The House of Commons rejects a Bill to advance the clocks by one hour during the spring and summer months in 1908.

1916 - The Summer Time Act was passed, establishing that legal time should be one hour ahead of GMT for a specified period of the year. During World War II, double summer time (GMT 2 hours) was used.

British Summer Time and daylight saving time have a long history.

The debate over daylight savings time

A successful campaign at the turn of the twentieth century argued in favor of changing the clocks during the summer months to avoid wasting time in the morning.

People nowadays argue that changing the clocks will benefit:

  • energy consumption reduction for environmental reasons
  • extending evening hours to support leisure and tourism
  • encouraging people to exercise outside more
  • reducing traffic accidents

There is also an argument against using daylight savings time:

  • The hassle of changing the clocks twice a year
  • Darker mornings raise safety concerns.
  • Some farmers are worried about the impact of changing livestock routines.
  • Some argue that changing the clocks is no longer necessary because many of us spend the majority of our time in well-lit homes, shops, and offices where the amount of daylight has little effect on our lives.
  • Similarly, the economic and environmental benefits can vary: in some warmer regions, longer evenings may actually increase energy consumption as people use air conditioners for longer periods of time.

It's an ongoing debate that is heavily influenced by people's geographical location, occupation, and way of life.

On the Line: The Greenwich Meridian's History
Greenwich's Royal Observatory is the home of time and space, as well as the Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). But have you ever wondered what the Prime Meridian is and why it is located in Greenwich? Why are all time zones on the planet based on GMT? What exactly is longitude, and why is the meridian shifting? Dr. Louise Devoy, Senior Curator of the Royal Observatory at Royal Museums Greenwich, wrote this article.
Harrison's marine timekeeper H4 in detail
This is the prize-winning longitude watch built by John Harrison in 1759. Harrison had been working on better watches as a side project while developing the much larger H3.
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