Time Zones


The world's time zones
Photo by FOTOGRAFIA.Nelo.Esteves via Flickr

Liz Waid and Adam Navis tell about the world’s time zones. This global system helps us organize time around the entire world.

Watch Video


Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2  

And I’m Adam Navis. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

In a few parts of the world, people can travel forward and backward in time just by taking a few steps. One of these places is where the countries of Norway, Finland, and Russia come together. In one moment, in Norway it is two o’clock; in Finland it is three o’clock; and in Russia it is 5 o’clock. In a few short steps you can move a few hours! This strange place is one of a few around the world. At these places, time zones meet. But who decided on these areas? How do they work today? Today’s Spotlight is on time zones.

Voice 2  

Traditionally, people told time by the position of the sun. But people began to travel long distances from their homes. They began to communicate with people far away using the radio and the telephone. Soon, telling time was a complex and global issue. Every city kept its own time. It was especially difficult to plan travel over long distances – like across the United States or Canada. In 1883, U.S. train companies divided the U.S. and Canada into four time zones.

Voice 1  

In 1884, there was a meeting called the International Meridian Conference. Twenty-six countries took part in the conference. It established 24 different time zone areas around the world - one for each hour of the day. These time zone areas extend from north to south over the earth. They follow the lines of longitude. The conference also agreed on where they would start counting time. They established the main line of longitude that separates the east and west hemisphere. They called it the prime meridian. The prime meridian went through the town of Greenwich, England. So the system of time was based from Greenwich Mean Time or GMT.

Voice 2  

Since the 1960’s this system has been called Coordinated Universal Time or UTC. UTC is still measured from the prime meridian. This is how it works: if you travel west from Greenwich, you will change time zones. It will be one hour earlier – or UTC minus one. If you travel even further west, after a time it will be UTC minus two, and then UTC minus three, and so on. The same thing happens if you travel east from Greenwich. You will move from one time zone to another. It will be one hour later – or UTC plus one.

Voice 1  

What happens if you go to the very opposite side of the world from Greenwich? You will be at UTC plus 12 OR minus 12! This line is called the International Date Line. When a person crosses this line, they move from one day to another. Most people do not find this a problem because the line is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. However, there are some people affected by this. The International Date Line cuts through the middle of the island nation of Kiribati. So in 1995 people agreed to make a small change to the International Date Line. Today, the line goes around the far eastern islands of Kiribati. This way the whole country is in the same time zone – and on the same day.

Voice 2  

Other places also exist where the rules of time zones are changed. The countries of China and India each cover the space of several time zones. But each country only uses one time across its whole area.

Voice 1  

There is something else that makes time zones even more complex. Some of the world changes time for part of the year! This is called Daylight Savings Time. About 40 percent of countries move time by one hour for some months of the year. In the spring, they move their time forward by one hour. Then they move their clocks back by one hour in the autumn.

Voice 2  

Why would people change their time like this? During the winter months, many places of the world do not have as many hours of daylight. The further north or south a country is, the fewer hours of daylight it has in the winter. Daylight Savings Time, or DST, allows people to have more light later in the day. This practice began as a way for people to save energy. But Dr. Colleen Carney says that the time change for DST has major negative effects on some people. She is head of the Sleep and Depression Laboratory at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. She says the effects are especially bad when people move their clocks ahead and lose an hour. She told the CBC:

Voice 3  

"For some people it is really going to feel strange. While your body is reorganizing itself you are going to have problems like extra tiredness, slower brain activity, low concentration, and difficulty sleeping. For some people it is not going to be too bad. But for people who already have a problem, especially people who have sleep loss, losing an hour is going to be unpleasant."

Voice 1

 Time zones provide a single global system. But they create complexity too. People who travel or move to different countries must think about time zones. And the internet makes us think more about time zones too. People use the internet to communicate. They make new relationships on the internet. They have to consider time differences to talk or play games with people all over the world.

Voice 2  

But time zones do not have to be a big problem. Edward Fisher is from the UK and moved to Australia. He told the BBC how he stayed close to his family, when they were separated by many time zones:

Voice 4  

“My family and I solved this by emailing, and waiting a few days for an answer. If it is important, we do call each other. Either we call first thing in the morning or last thing at night. We also try to organize our telephone calls by email and plan when to talk to each other. Because of today's technology and good internet connection being in a different time zone does not mean that my family are far away.”

Voice 1  

Do you communicate across Time Zones? How do time zones affect your life? Does your country have Daylight Savings Time? Do you think it is helpful? Tell us what you think! You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on our Facebook page at facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 2  

The writer of this programme was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this programme and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This programme is called ”Time Zones”.

Voice 1  

Look for our listening app in the Google Play store and in iTunes. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight programme. Goodbye.

Question:

Is your life affected by time zones? Do you communicate with people across time zones?

Comments