Spring forward

In the early hours of tomorrow morning, at 1am, the clocks go forward by one hour in the UK. Rather than use GMT (or UT), we will be using British Summer Time (BST). If you're like me, you probably never remembered when the clocks were going to change and always found out about it the night before - if you were lucky. Part of the reason that we don't remember about the change is that it doesn't occur on a fixed calendar date. I had always assumed that there must be a rule similar to the one for Easter, but nobody I knew ever seemed to know what it was. Well there is no need to feel bad about ignorance of the rules as it seems that there have been several different ones over the years.

Summer time was first defined in an Act of 1916 and occurred each year up until the Second World War. During the war, the UK was on double summer time, meaning that during the winter we were one hour ahead of GMT and then two hours ahead during the summer. After the war we went back to summer time only until 1968, when we got stuck one hour ahead of GMT for three years. From 1972 onwards, we were back to GMT and summer time, although the exact time of change each year was redefined a few times. From 1995 to 1997 the rules were more or less the same as the Seventh EU Directive. Finally, in 1998, the EU adopted The Ninth European Parliament and Council Directive on Summer Time Arrangements. These arrangements state that summer time is kept from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October and the change occurs at 01.00 GMT.

In the past 100 years there have been over seventy pieces of legislation as politicians try to legislate when the sun rises and sets. Although the idea of using 'European time' keeps coming up, it looks as though the rules will stay fixed for a few years at least.

So, if you live in the UK, remember to put your clocks forward one hour before you go to bed.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 26th Mar 2005 (22:17 UTC) | Permalink
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