It happens every year in many parts of the U.S. and Europe as well as several other countries across the globe: we spring forward and fall backward. Every March and November – sometimes October, depending on where we live – society dictates that our clocks move forward one hour near the beginning of spring and then one hour backward near the beginning of autumn.

The Daylight Saving Time process has become so automatic that it has become easy to forget how it works or why we do it. A recent post (NSFW for language) at Metafilter, “My Cousin Oskaar,” explained the plight of a man named Oskaar who speaks out in favor of Western Australia adopting DST. He supposedly lives in Iceland and only receives a few hours of daylight in winter. It is those conditions that have spurred him to urge the rest of the world to cherish its precious daylight.

Oskaar’s video has made its way across various news sites. Though the accuracy of his geographical origin is suspect, the Metafilter community did not stop providing intelligent analysis in its comments about the nature of saving daylight.

Overall, it is important to know that DST has the basic effect of moving the clock so that there is more sunlight toward the end of the day. One commenter in particular, eriko, demonstrates how this works by explaining the discrepancy between Solar noon and local time in two different U.S. cities – Chicago, Ill. and Fort Wayne, Ind. Solar noon is the point in the day when the Sun appears highest in the sky. Local time is the time associated with Solar noon according to time zones. In the cases of the two cities listed here, those times zones are, respectively, Central and Eastern.

In Chicago, for instance, according to the Central time zone, Solar noon occurs at about 11:48 a.m. in mid-December. At that same time of the year, Fort Wayne, Ind. will see Solar noon around 12:45 p.m. The cities are only 150 miles apart, but they are in different time zones. It is the placement of their time zones that makes all the difference.

The commenter says Fort Wayne, because of its position in the western side of the Eastern time zone, will always experience later sunrises and sunsets than Chicago which is in the eastern side of the Central time zone. This absolute positioning on the globe and relative position within time zones makes Fort Wayne appear as if it is always saving daylight. Therefore, when DST is applied, Fort Wayne gets almost a double dose of savings.

The ultimate question, eriko asks, is, “When do I want sunlight?” DST will always have the effect of removing sunlight from the morning hours and adding sunlight to the evening hours. Most U.S. states have decided that they want a mix of morning and evening sun, so they move the clocks to make it appear more stable. Moving the clocks back in the winter – taking away DST – makes it possible for Chicago, for example, to continue to have sunrises closer to 7 a.m. rather than after 8 a.m. Many cities would see extraordinarily late sunrises in the winter if DST was applied all year long.

A few more details about the situation can be found within eriko’s comment and within the rest of the comment thread. Some commenters denounce what he has said and argue for the abolition of DST altogether. All in all, eriko appears to offer something for which Metafilter has become known. It can allow the words of laymen to shine and spur conversation about the most fundamental topics of the day. Place any comments below to continue the discussion here.

Image courtesy of vonderauvisuals via Wikimedia Commons