Map: How Wrong Is Your Time Zone?

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Feb. 21 2014 9:50 AM

Map: How Wrong Is Your Time Zone?

solartimevsstandardtime
Behind the times.

Stefano Maggiolo

This week my colleague Laura Anderson made the case for why other countries should adopt Spain’s eating schedule. The fact that people in Spain stay up so late is partially the result of a fluky Franco era-change to the country’s time zone that put the country an hour ahead of Portugal, Britain, and Ireland, which are on the same longitude.    

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

Spain may be the most widely cited example of nationwide temporal displacement, but it’s got nothing on Urumqi.

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The map above, created by math blogger and Google engineer Stefano Maggiolo (click here for a full-size version), shows the difference between clock time and “solar time”a schedule in which the sun is at its highest point in the sky at exactly 12 noon.

For whatever reason, more of the world seems to be a little bit like Spainthe sun rises and sets later in the day than it shouldthan the other way around. The "late" places are shown in red, the "early" places in green. The deeper the shade, the more off the time is.

Not surprisingly, Western China is the deepest red. All of China’s clocks are set to Beijing time, meaning that solar noon happens at about 3 p.m. in the far-western Xinjiang province. In defiance of the government, many members of the region’s Uighur minority observe their own time.

On the opposite extreme is the eastern portion of India, which also has a single time zone. As you might expect, time is a controversial issue in the far-eastern state of Assam, where the sun rises at 4:30 a.m. in the summer.

Parts of Russia are also pretty dark, an issue that was likely exacerbated by Dmitry Medvedev’s decision to drop two of the country’s time zones.

Here in Washington, we seem to be pretty close to solar time, so, unfortunately, siestas and 10 p.m. dinners probably won’t be coming to our nation’s capital anytime soon. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

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