This weekend, we Alaskans will join residents of 47 other states in observing daylight saving time. As the clocks strike 2 a.m. Alaska Standard Time on Sunday, we will turn them forward one hour, officially starting daylight saving time in Alaska.

The tradition, initially implemented to make better use of daylight, dates back to long before Alaska became the 49th state. In a place with incredible swings in daylight, however, simply moving the clock forward is much more complicated than it may seem at first glance. 

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Alaska Standard Time

Not that long ago Alaska was split into four different time zones. Southeast joined Seattle in Pacific time, Yakutat joined Canada's Yukon time, Alaska time stretched from near Yakutat to Cold Bay, and Bering time encompassed the Aleutians and extended north up the coast.

If that wasn't complicated enough, after World War II, Juneau joined Anchorage in Alaska Standard Time. The capital city didn't spend too long observing a different set of hours than all surrounding communities before the uproar prompted a reversal of the change.

In 1983, everything changed. As daylight saving time came to an end, clocks around the state changed to a new standard time.

Some 90 percent of Alaskans entered what is now called Alaska Standard Time. The remaining residents of the far western Aleutians joined Hawaii in the new Hawaii-Aleutian time.

Alaska time was defined as one hour earlier than Pacific time, and Hawaii-Aleutian time one hour earlier than that.

Solar Noon

The new uniform time in Alaska created a few problems for residents. One of those problems is solar noon, the time of day when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. Since Alaska Standard Time spans such a great distance from east to west, solar noon occurs at vastly different times of the day from one city to the next.

Southeast Alaska is as close as it gets to being “on time.” During standard time, which is from November to March, solar noon and clocks are pretty much in sync in our state’s capital. As clocks spring forward in March, solar noon shifts later in the day to just after 1 p.m.

In Anchorage, solar noon occurs long after the clock strikes noon. In fact, solar noon occurs after 1 p.m. during standard time and shifts to after 2 p.m. during daylight saving time. Fairbanks falls in line with Anchorage.

Moving west, however, many communities experience solar noon more than three hours after the clock strikes noon!

Legislation

Legislation surrounding time in Alaska has been tricky from the start. From the original four time zones to Juneau observing a different time than surrounding communities, there has always been some sort of debate about time in the 49th state.

Alaska Standard Time was originally implemented to unify the state for ease of business and communication. But even now, some believe something can be done to make time better.

In 2006 and 2007, measures to kill daylight saving time in Alaska never made it to the ballot after petitions to block the move gathered enough signatures to stop the notion early on.

More recently, two bills introduced into the legislative process to end daylight saving time passed one, but not both, branches of government. The first, in 2009, passed in the House but not the Senate. The second passed in the Senate but not the House in 2015.

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Daylight saving time

Alaska Standard Time was implemented in 1983 to unify the state for ease of communication and business.

Today, observation of daylight saving time serves the same purpose on a grander scale. By adjusting our clocks with the rest of the country, we stay in sync. This helps with interstate business and communication, but goes beyond the obvious as well.

By remaining one hour earlier than Pacific time and four hours earlier than Eastern time, major scheduling headaches are easily avoided for Alaskans.

Football fans don’t have to get up extra-early during the season to catch a game. Cruise ship and flight times stay closer to those of the Lower 48, and, perhaps most importantly, family and friends Outside don’t call quite as early in the morning eight months out of the year.

Other arguments against abolishing daylight saving time in Alaska range from conservation of energy to tourists spending more money in the evening. While the list of arguments seems to stretch on longer than the hour we gain by setting clocks back in the fall, the most important reason for observing daylight saving time is one all too familiar to Alaska’s past: uniformity.

By staying in sync with other states' changing clocks, business and communication between Alaska and the Lower 48 can continue uninterrupted.

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