Thank Ben for daylight saving time

Special to The TribuneOctober 27, 2012 

John Lindsey

On my first long cruise with the Navy in the early 1980s, we left Charleston, S.C., in a Knox-class frigate and headed eastward across the Atlantic Ocean toward the Mediterranean Sea. 

As we sailed across the Atlantic, the ship moved through one time zone after another. At each new time zone, the ship’s clock was forwarded one hour at 2 a.m., and the crew lost one hour of sleep. In a naïve and karmic sort of way, I thought six months later when we headed back toward the United States we would gain one hour sleep with each passing time zone. To my astonishment on our return voyage, the ship’s clock was turned back one hour at noon, which allowed the ship’s crew to perform an extra hour of work. Oh well — so much for sleeping in.

Unlike that Knox-class frigate, California will fall back one hour Nov. 4 at 2 a.m., as we shift from Pacific Daylight Time to Pacific Standard Time, which will give most of us an extra hour of sleep.

This may lead to the question of when daylight saving time began. Well, the first references to daylight saving time that I could find were traced back to our country’s first meteorologist, Ben Franklin. Not only did he discover electricity, but he also served as U.S. ambassador to France. While living in Paris, he thought about the early sunrises of summer and the energy resources that could be saved if people simply rose an hour earlier.

During World War II, the United States adopted daylight saving time to reduce our country’s dependence on artificial light and thereby saving other energy sources for the war effort. Between 1942 and 1945, daylight saving time was observed year-round. 

Since the end of World War II, it has been optional for states and territories to observe daylight saving time. For example, Arizona and Hawaii remain on standard time year-round. Today, daylight saving time begins the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November.

But does the change really save energy? Different studies have been conducted over the years of the effectiveness of energy reduction during daylight saving time. Most of the studies indicate a net energy savings, while some studies indicate an actual increase in energy usage. For instance, people coming home one hour earlier from work or school during the summer’s heat would have to run their air conditioner longer during daylight saving time.

Another aspect is the effect on our health. Studies have indicated an increased rate of accidents when we spring forward one hour during spring, due to lack of sleep and the interruption of our circadian cycles. However, other studies have shown an improvement in health due to a greater amount of outdoor activities with the later sunsets.

I help coach my son’s Under 10 soccer team in Los Osos. Our practices begin at 4:30 p.m. and end by 5:30 p.m. Next week, it’ll be dark at the end of practice. Other teams that normally start at 5:30 p.m. will need to move up their practice times or find a field with lights. On one hand, the later sunsets allow kids to go trick-or-treating in more daylight. But on the other hand, students would eventually be walking to school in the dark during the morning hours if we didn’t fall back one hour.

Believe it or not, there are some groups that advocate for extreme daylight saving. Basically they would stay on daylight saving time throughout the year, and actually move the clocks forward another hour during the summer months to have more daylight hours for work.

As far as weather forecasting is concerned, most of the atmospheric and oceanographic instrumentation stays on standard time year-round. When you think about it, you just can’t have databases gaining one hour of data during the fall, and losing one hour of data during the spring.

The Waverider buoy that PG&E operates and maintains off Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant provides wave height, period and directional data. However, during daylight saving time, it and all the other marine buoys up and down the coastline seem to report a few hours late. The weather models and charts that we depend upon for accurate forecasting also have the appearance of running late. At this time of the year with the late sunrise, the visible satellite images aren’t available until nearly 8 in the morning.

So at the end of the day, some people like daylight  saving time and others don’t. My former colleague and computer and instrumentation expert, Einar Anderson, remains on standard time year-round. Next Sunday, I’ll be frantically looking at my car’s owner’s manual, trying to figure out how to move its clock one hour back.

Today’s forecast

Northeasterly offshore winds will continue to produce clear skies, low relative humidity levels and warm temperatures. In fact, today’s high temperatures will reach the low to mid-80s throughout San Luis Obispo County, including the Los Osos-Baywood Park Oktoberfest.

The predominant wind flow will turn onshore Monday. This condition should allow the marine layer to redevelop along the coast by Tuesday, producing night and morning low clouds and fog and cooler temperatures through Wednesday.

A strong 997-millibar low-pressure system and associated cold front will move
into Northern California on Wednesday, producing periods of moderate to heavy rain. This cold front will weaken as it approaches the Central Coast on Wednesday night. Nevertheless, it should be just strong enough to produce between a tenth and third of an inch of rain Thursday morning.

This cold front will be followed by increasing northwesterly winds and below-seasonal temperatures Friday through next Sunday.

Today’s surf report

A 3- to 5-foot northwesterly (290-degree deepwater) swell (with an 8- to 15-second period) will arrive along our coast today and will remain at this height but with a gradually shorter period through Tuesday morning.

A 3- to 5-foot northwesterly (310-degree deepwater) sea and swell (with a 7- to 12-second period) will start Tuesday morning and will continue through Wednesday.

A 4- to 6-foot northwesterly (295-degree deepwater) swell (with an 8- to 15-second period) will arrive Thursday and will remain at this height through Friday morning.

Increasing northwesterly winds will generate a 3- to 5-foot (320-degree deep-
water) sea and swell (with a 7- to 11-second period) Friday afternoon through next Sunday.

Seawater temperatures

The seawater temperature will range between 55 and 58 degrees through Friday.

•  •  •

As we make the transition back to standard time, PG&E offers these important safety and energy efficiency tips:

• Consider installing motion sensors on porch lights in front of homes. This also saves energy because lights will automatically turn on and off.

• As it gets darker earlier, drivers should be aware of children walking home or playing in the streets. Parents should suggest light-colored clothing, including reflective material, for children to increase visibility.

• Local fire agencies recommend changing batteries in smoke detectors when clock times are changed. In addition, check your emergency supply kit to make sure it is fully stocked and ready.

John Lindsey’s column is special to The Tribune. He is a media relations representative for PG&E and longtime local meteorologist. If you have a question, send him an email at pgeweather

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