The Time Zone Problem

Daylight saving time means living in the wrong time zone; for some countries in the “double wrong” time zone.


Figure 1 shows the current time zones in Europe. In the background (in pale color) the correct sun-based time zones (the closest to natural time) are shown, which arise when the earth is divided into 24 segments of the same size. They align the sun time as well as possible with the social time, the time of the day.

On the main meridian of each correct sun-based time zone (middle line within the colored areas) the sun is at 12 a.m. at its highest point. At the eastern and western borders, social time deviates only half an hour from the sun time. The mainland of the European Union extends over four sun-based Time zones: The Azores time zone, the Western European time zone, the Central European time zone and the Eastern European time zone. The country colors indicate the time zones in which the individual countries live due to political decisions. These are called standard time in the respective country. As it can be seen, Germany is mostly (except the western border) in the geographically correct time zone. The deviation of social time from sun time is therefore small. If it hits 12 a.m. in Germany, it is on the eastern edge of Germany in sun time 11:55 a.m. and on the western edge 11:30 a.m.

Figure 1: Current European time zones. Source: [RoWK19], edited.

However, the countries Spain, France and the Benelux countries live not in the geographically correct time zone. They have therefore an enormous difference between their social time and the sun time. The most extreme case of this difference is Galicia (northwest of Spain) where when the clock hits 12 a.m. (social time) it is only 10.30 a.m. according to sun time. It is not for nothing that the Spaniards are known for eating late. However, having the sun under consideration, they do not eat any later than Germans do.

Portugal, also, is mostly not in the correct time zone. In continental Portugal, when the clock strikes 12 a.m. it is according to sun time only 11:25 a.m. on its west coast (highest population density). In the Portuguese islands, the time zones seem to be the result of some confusion. For the Madeira archipelago, the perfect time-zone would actually be Azores time, instead of Western European Time. Given the present circumstances, when the clock strikes 12 a.m. it is only 10:45 a.m. according to sun time. For the Azores archipelago, the ideal time zone would actually be time UTC-2:00. Given the present circumstances, when the clock strikes 12 a.m., depending on the island, it is approximately anywhere between 11:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. according to sun time.

Daylight saving time means nothing but applying a time zone further east (see Figure 2). Germany lives during daylight saving time with Eastern European Time. If the midday bells ring at 12 a.m., it is only 10:55 a.m. in the east of Germany and 10:30 a.m. in the west, according to sun time.

Even more dramatic is the discrepancy between social time and sun time in the Western European countries. In Galicia, it is only 9:30 a.m. sun time, when the clock shows 12 a.m.

In the west of continental Portugal daylight saving time means to eat lunch at 10:25 a.m., although the clock is showing 12 o'clock. For Madeira archipelago, midday means 9:45am, while in Azores archipelago, it means between 10.00 and 10:15am, in accordance with solar time.

Decoupling sun time from social time has serious health consequences.

Figure 2: European time zones in daylight saving time. Source: [RoWK19], edited.

However, there is a simple solution: the position of the Member States of the European Union provides optimal conditions for natural time by using geographically adequate time zones [RoWK19] (see Figure 3). It would not even be necessary to let time zone borders run through the middle of countries. Concerns about turning Europe into a patchwork of time zones are also unfounded. The United States has been working with six time zones for over a century, some of which with borders running through states. Why shouldn't Europe be able to do that?


The division presented in figure 3, connects the social time as best as possible with the position of the sun and, thus, with natural time and our internal clock - a solution for the health of all [RoWK19].

Figure 3: Healthy European time zones. Source: [RoWK19], edited.

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