A good friend mentioned DST and the possible impacts of it both on her and on people in general. In my profession it has several impacts, and because of my background there are other impacts that may be of interest. For a number of years I have worked as a weather forecaster, and it affects our job significantly for a number of reasons. First, we maintain a 24/7 work schedule. This means that some of us will get our shift reduced or increased by an hour during the changeover dates.
Second, and of more importance is how it affects how much time we have to make our forecast products. The computer guidance, and some of the most important guidance, are sent to us at 0000 and 1200 UTC (basically Greenwich Mean Time), and this occurs at the same real time every day of the year. This means that when DST pushes local time ahead one hour, we have one less hour to absorb and use the new guidance to produce our forecasts. Since DST is mainly in the summer, this usually isn’t so bad because the weather isn’t usually calmer than winter weather, but the spring and fall are very hectic, because the weather is still very active. We really look forward to the extra hour to consider the data and model guidance which we get during standard time in the winter. The new schedule effectively makes the spring and fall periods when the weather is still dangerous ,and when we have less time to consider conditions because of DST, longer by about three weeks
The third factor is the length of our shifts. It works out that we get up before dawn and go home after dark for all the the winter and much of the spring and fall. This can get fairly depressing, and in the spring I personally like being able to get up after dawn and not having to live like a vampire outside work hours. Also, the amount of sunlight experienced affects circadian rhythms significantly, especially in the mornings. Most people wake up much more naturally and with less stress when the sun is up, and kicking back sunrise in the spring after a winter of darkness is not a pleasant prospect.
Finally, during the time change some computer-assisted products may screw up their time stamps and header data. Usually the CS people fix them within a couple of days, but because the DST changeover occurs on between 1-2 am Sunday morning, we have to monitor all our product outputs to make sure the time stamps are correct until at least Monday morning, and this during the first few shifts were we have less time to forecast. It’s an unnecessary annoyance and potential cause of confusion and trouble.
For this job in particular DST has many more disadvantages than advantages. Other professions were public services are time dependent, and where shift work is involved, should have some of the same problems (except possibly for the partially automated computer products).
On a less personal note, over the years I’ve found out a few bits of trivia and useful information about DST. Here goes:
- Newfoundland was the first in North America to institute DST with the Daylight Savings Act of 1917. The main idea was to use the extra dayight in the morning, and to use the extended evening hours for recreation, etc.
- A major proponent of DST are various retail and recreational interests (Golf, fast food, etc).
- A major economic drawback are due to effects of changes in sleep patterns twice a year. In the U.S. the impact is estimated to be at least in the tens of billions of dollars, not counting health effects.
- Traffic fatalities in the U.S. during the period DST decrease, but during the changeover periods increase slightly. The net effect is a decrease of about 0.7%, which translate to about 280 fewer people dying every year. For Canada, the same 0.7% would translate to about 20 fewer people dying each year.
Personally I would prefer that there be no time change during the year. Either use Standard Time or Daylight Savings Time year-round, or maybe some compromise time scewed towards dawn being a little later on the clock. This may make more sense than you think, since Standard Time has been reduced by about 4 weeks to 127 days per year. Many of the advantages of DST are controversial, especially the energy benefits, and I think the health effects for a large part of the population may be a deciding factor for me. Also, I have an aesthetic appreciation for solar noon occurring at something near 12 o’clock, 😉
Regardless, this whole discussion is the traditional seasonal signal for spring and the equinox, which will occur March 21 at 0007 UTC(GMT), which means March 20 at 9:37 pm in Newfoundland and Eastern Labrador, and 9:07 pm in the Maritimes. Here comes the Sun! 🙂