Clocks go back: Why do the clocks go back tonight?


Britons will be gaining an extra hour of sleep tonight as the clocks go backwards, signifying the start of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). This means the rest of the year and start of 2021 will see darker mornings after the clocks turn backwards.

The reverse of this happens each March, with the clocks going forwards to put the UK on BST or British Summer Time.

Britons then lose an hour of sleep when this happens.

While this may have proved disruptive to those with analogue clocks – those with smartphones will wake up without disruption as the clever machines will change time automatically.

Smartwatches should also change themselves to the new time, but analogue watches will need changing.

Read More: British Summer Time ends: When do the clocks change?

Why do the clocks go back tonight?

The first proposal for daylight savings time came from builder William Willet, as according to Dr Richard Dunn, senior curator for the History of Science at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, he was “incensed at the ‘waste’ of useful daylight during the summer.

Mr Willet said: “Though the sun had been up for hours as he rode his horse through Chislehurst and Petts Wood, people were still asleep in bed”.

He proposed the clocks changing in a pamphlet titled The Waste of Daylight which was published in 1907.

Unfortunately, Mr Willet did not see his idea come to be as he died in 1915, and the first change to the clocks came in 1916.

For many the clocks going back signifies the beginning of the winter season.

As the clocks go backward, nights may seem to get darker sooner, and mornings remain darker for longer.

It’s this which for many symbolises the winter season has arrived. 

When does winter start?

When winter begins depends on the calendar you use.

According to the Astronomical Calendar, the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of winter.

This year the Winter Solstice falls on Monday, December 21.

This is the shortest day of the year, with daylight hours lasting just lasts seven hours 49 minutes and 42 seconds in London.

However, according to the Meteorological calendar, the winter season begins on December 1.

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