Time to change clocks

EU countries are considering an end to ‘spring ahead, fall back’

Summer Time ends and Winter Time starts Oct. 28 at 3 am. People are supposed to set clocks back one hour to 2 am. Most computers, phones and similar electronics do this automatically these days.

People planning to attend events for the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia on Oct. 28 should be sure to remember to double check the time and manually reset old-school watches or they will be an hour early.

People also need to double-check departure times for trains, planes and other formed of transportation, especially at night.

Many people refer to the time change as Daylight Saving Time, but in Europe, the term is actually Summer Time. Daylight Saving Time in the Americas ends Nov. 4.

The European Union is looking at ending the practice of changing clocks twice a year, as a survey has shown it is widely unpopular and seen to serve no real purpose anymore. Some 80 percent of people oppose the practice.

Current EU rules require all member states to change clocks, as this makes international travel and business easier if the times are coordinated.

But the change in policy will not happen quickly as EU member states and the European Parliament both need to approve it.

Some non-EU countries have already stopped the practice, including Russia, Turkey, Belarus and Iceland.

The practice of changing the time originally was meant to save energy use, but with modern efficient lights and people’s flexible work schedules, the energy savings is actually quite small.

One clock in Prague that will not be changing back is the Astronomical Clock on Old Town Square. While its complicated-to-read face shows several different times including Old Bohemian time based on the sunset as well as Central European Time, the clock cannot be made to show Summer Time and Winter Time. The clock tracks the movements of the sun and moon against the zodiac, linking them to the time, and this can't be pushed back or forward.

Communist authorities tried to do so, with the result being the time was correct but the positions of the zodiac, sun and moon were significantly wrong for half the year.

The Astronomical Clock was built in 1410, and the practice of moving the clock back and forth an hour according to the seasons started in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany in 1916 to save energy during World War I.

Summer Time in Europe fell out of use after World War I ended and was reintroduced during World War II, only to fall out of favor again until the power shortages of the 1960s. The European Community, a precursor to the European Union, issued a directive in 1981 for all of its members regarding the starting date of Summer Time, but there were still differences in the ending date.

In 1998, the end of Summer Time (and the start of Winter Time) was adjusted to be the last Sunday in October for all EU member states.

Until the EU changes the rules, remember the simple maxim “spring ahead, fall back” to remember which way to move the clock hands.

Clocks will next change March 31, 2019, by going ahead an hour.

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