May 18, 2024

Time Shift: Sunday is summer time — but how is it actually measured?

time change

Daylight Savings Time is Sunday – but how is that actually measured?

Daylight saving time begins next Sunday: at two o’clock in Switzerland, as in most European countries, the clocks are brought forward to three o’clock.


On Sunday, the clock will be moved back one hour. Very accurate atomic clocks around the world are responsible for measuring time.

Image by Imago / Henning Scheffen

That’s what it’s about

  • Switzerland puts the clocks forward one hour on the last weekend in March.

  • In 2022, daylight saving time will start on the night of March 26 to 27 at 2 am and 3 am respectively.

  • A global network of highly accurate atomic clocks is responsible for this.

Switching to daylight savings time deprives us of an hour’s sleep from Saturday to Sunday. DST begins on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October. So this year it lasts from March 26th to October 29th.

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Mnemonics facilitate the change of time

If you also ask yourself each year whether the clocks will turn forward or backward in the spring, you can take advantage of this memory: As we keep the clock in Frühling yet Fifthorne, let’s turn it in hinherit hInside again and again there Debates about canceling the time shift.

In Switzerland, the Federal Institute of Metrology (Metas) is responsible for defining and publishing Swiss Standard Time. To this end, it maintains several atomic clocks in its laboratories and thus participates in achieving Coordinated Universal Time. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris uses data from about 350 atomic clocks from more than 60 timekeeping reference laboratories around the world to determine Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC for short. This is the universal reference time that determines the speed for all time zones.

Accurate to a second even in millions of years

Precise atomic clocks, called elementary frequency standards, play a particularly important role in setting world time. More than ten primary frequency standards around the world regularly contribute to the accuracy of Universal Time. One of these special atomic clocks is housed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology: Fontaine Continue Suisse. It works so accurately that it will take 30 million years before two identical clocks differ by one second.

Publishing at high resolution time scales plays an increasingly important role in many areas, the Meta statement says. This may include stock exchange trading, but also the implementation of many new technologies such as the Internet of Things or the synchronization of distributed systems.

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In order to be able to meet these needs, new optical fiber time distribution systems are currently being developed, which can achieve very high performance and therefore should make an ideal contribution to the development of future technologies.

The debate about daylight saving time and winter time and their sense and nonsense has been around since about summer time itself. Daylight saving time has an advantage in one aspect in particular: Researchers at the Urban Energy Systems Laboratory in Empa in Switzerland put forward the hypothesis and suggested that daylight saving time would lead to an earlier exit from workplace and reduce cooling energy consumption.

Using data from several US office buildings, the team simulated energy consumption for heating and cooling with or without DST savings and found that DST can reduce cooling energy consumption by up to six percent. Therefore, policy makers should consider the impact of daylight saving time on energy consumption and its potential contribution to climate change mitigation.

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