AD Main Menu

The Concerned: Daylight saving time has got to go, but where?

Scott Woodham
Aaron Jansen illustration

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Nov. 4, 2011, but at 2 a.m. Sunday, Daylight saving time ends for 2012. That means we gain an hour and it's time to set your clocks back. In the meantime, enjoy this little bit of the Concerned from the Alaska Dispatch archives.

TO: The Sun
CC: The Moon
Subject: The dreaded time change

Dear Enabler of All Life on Earth,

How's it going? You may or may not know this, but this coming Sunday, the vast majority of Americans will set their clocks back one hour to return to standard time after advancing them last spring to “save” an hour of your light each day throughout the summer months. The shift happens twice a year, and it seems to always cause sleepless grumbling and weeks of grumpiness in Alaska. Yet still we follow along with the nationwide illusion that we're controlling you more than we're controlling ourselves. We The Concerned are tired of paying the price for a convention whose greatest advocates live in the middle latitudes.

Oddly enough, Alaska isn't the only northern land that observes a time-change. Canada's high Arctic, Greenland, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, and Finland all observe it -- except for some scattered locales that have decided to stop tinkering with you. Of far northern countries, only Russia and Iceland don't change their clocks, and Russia only recently abandoned the practice.

Every year, The Concerned anticipate these shifts with great dismay. In the late autumn, some of us dread losing an hour of daylight in the evening, and some of us dread the crazy sleep patterns until our internal clocks reset. We The Concerned don't agree on much, but we are united in our hatred of daylight saving time and its attendant demise in the fall.

The problem for us is that in Alaska at certain times of the year, on either side of the solstices, you race across the skies, shining more or less each day by some five to 10 minutes or more depending on latitude. Right now, most Alaskans are trying to adjust to losing a half hour or more of daylight per week. With the change back to Standard Time, they'll have to cope with a net half hour of disruption the other way.

Luckily, the roughly half-hour of net daylight reallocated to the morning this Sunday compared to a week before will be gone by the end of the following week. Poof! Then the adjustment to your winter schedule has to start all over again. When that jet lagged week or so ends, another ludicrous -- and laughable -- attempt to increase the time you shine in the northern summer sky will finally end. 

A bigger problem approaching Sunday is that you'll appear to rise an hour earlier, still well after work or school has begun for most Alaskans. And, of course, you'll appear to set an hour earlier, still well before most daily obligations are complete. Most of us (especially those of us who work inside windowless garages, warehouses or office buildings) will begin to simply miss you altogether, like two ships passing in the daylight.

Frankly, it can be a little sad for many of us that we won't see you much in the winter, but we don't want you to think we're getting clingy or anything. We love you enough to let you go, and we know you'll come back to us soon enough; we're meant to be.

Mainly we The Concerned just wish everybody would pick a time and stop yanking us around by the eyelids twice a year when your appearance so clearly doesn't correspond to the way we live our lives. You might not know it, but the whole notion of summer/winter time changes is in direct opposition to your physical reality in Alaska. Most of us have trained ourselves to live by the time on our wristwatches or cellphones and don't refer to you for any kind of information at all, except maybe to gauge the thickness of cloud cover. Luckily, we The Concerned have several proposals to remedy this distressing time-change situation.

First, instead of “Spring ahead, Fall back,” in Alaska, it should be “Summer spree, Winter whatever.” In the summer, standard workdays for year-round residents would be lengthened to about 15 hours, and in the winter, they would be curtailed to roughly three. In the course of a year, it'd all balance out to 40 hours a week. This plan, which is sort of how it works out in many sectors anyway, would allow Alaska to take maximum advantage of available light and in winter would allow more residents to get outside and see you during your brief visits. It would also have numerous economic benefits, not the least of which would be creating a boom in winter hiring as each position would need three people to fill it.

Some of the more ambitious members of The Concerned think it's time to start production on a network of satellites that would deploy massive mirrors to redirect your light onto Alaska during the winter and shoot it out into space during the summer. Sure it would even out Alaska's dramatic living leitmotif, but there's no telling what it would do to the state's ecology.

We could also spring ahead three hours or so when the rest of the U.S. springs ahead one. That way, in summer, dusk would start approaching in the most populous areas of the state right as day-shift Alaskans are heading to bed. Then many of The Concerned could stop wearing those uncomfortable tinfoil eye masks and just rely on heavy drapes. And when daylight saving time ends in the fall, it would push daylight back to greet people in the morning as they're waking up for the day. We figure if a one-hour disruption is worth the trouble for Alaska twice a year, three hours wouldn't be that much of a problem. Plus, it would mean Alaska's industries would get a jump on the West Coast and the oil industry on the Slope could work on Houston time.

In fact, that all isn't as crazy as it sounds. The United Kingdom is right now considering abandoning British Central and joining Central European Time, which would entail a two-hour shift ahead eventually. They're calling it “single double summer time."

Really though, you alternate between abundance and absence for so much of Alaska that to tinker with our clocks to have them make sense in terms the lower latitudes can understand, we'd have to torque them so much that it would either expose time for the completely arbitrary social convention it has become, or just depressingly illustrate to Alaskans how far away they really are from the rest of the U.S.

Of course, most of our suggestions above wouldn't work that well to bring everyone in alignment with your actual appearance in Alaska. For one, it's a huge patch of land, and in 1983, it was decided that most of Alaska would constitute one time zone (which used to be the Yukon's). At various times prior to that, there were at least three Alaska time zones. Now, aside from the western Aleutians, all of Alaska's in one time zone.

Basically it all means that most of the state's clocks are ahead of your natural march across the sky by at least an hour. Nome's clocks are set either two or three hours earlier than your actual schedule, depending on whether it's daylight saving time or not. In the summer, Anchorage's observed time is a full two hours faster than solar time. In essence, you appear to set for Alaska much later in the summer than you would if clocks actually measured you instead of social consensus. It's called “double daylight time,” and we The Concerned suspect it's an effective marketing gimmick to convince visitors there's more “Midnight Sun” than there actually is.

Whatever the reason was to put Alaska's clocks at such odds with you, simply doing away with daylight saving time wouldn't solve the entire problem.

Ideally for everyone's health and mental well-being, Alaska's clocks would run on the same schedule you do, but that's apparently not gonna happen. Best case scenario, our bodies would function better throughout the year, but we'd have to stay up even later to watch certain important live television, like presidential debates, sporting events, and American Idol finales.

If anything, winter's the time Alaskans should be “conserving” your rays. Unfortunately, daylight saving time wasn't created with polar or equatorial people in mind. It only serves the middle latitudes, and only serves people who need more daylight in the evenings during the summer. If you want more daylight on winter evenings, too bad, buy special light bulbs or something.

We The Concerned don't know if there's anything you can do to help this whole situation since you're not the one revolving around the Earth or anything. But since there is evidence that living against your natural cycle and changing times abruptly twice a year has actual health consequences, maybe you could help somehow. Goodness knows government doesn't appear likely to ease the toll living at odds with you takes on Alaskans. If you can't help, thanks for listening at least. We feel a little better now.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what humans decide to do with their adorable little clocks, does it? You're gonna do what you're gonna do. Most of The Concerned are just happy they can fire up the ice lanterns now.

See you next spring,
The Concerned

Correction: Originally, The Concerned regretfully wrote that Great Britain does not observe a summer time change. In fact, it has since a 2002 order of the European Parliament compelled it. We have corrected the error in the above text and thank our reader for taking the time to notify us.

Contact The Concerned

Contact Scott Woodham at or on