Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

10 things to love about our clocks falling back even if you hate it

More sleep, stars, moonlight, brighter mornings. What's not to like about turning back clocks (besides eating dinner after nightfall).

The Center City skyline photographed at sunset last month. The oblique light is one more thing to love this time of year.
The Center City skyline photographed at sunset last month. The oblique light is one more thing to love this time of year.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Perhaps fittingly, on Groundhog Day the “Sunshine Protection Act” calling for year-round daylight saving time was remanded to a U.S. Senate subcommittee and hasn’t seen much of the sun since. (Gee, it’s not as if Congress has any other pressing business.)

This was neither the first, nor likely the last, ditch-the-switch initiative, but for now once again the clocks will go back an hour Sunday morning — when 2 a.m. will revert to 1 a.m. — as daylight saving time yields to Eastern standard time. And for the most part an often fractious citizenry will acquiesce to what the chronobiologists insist is a cosmic twice-a-year disruption.

For those who don’t particularly relish nightfalls before dinner, here are 10 things to savor about a suddenly earlier dawn, starting with the obvious:

1. The longest day

The earlier sunset might obscure the fact that it is the longest calendar day of the year, a full 25 hours, and it comes on what is a day off for most of us. And it so happens that Sundays don’t get much better in November: a high in the 50s, plenty of sun, and surprising bouquets of foliage color still in play.

» READ MORE: The best places to see fall foliage in the Philly region

2. Dawn’s early light

“So dark.” That was Karen Masters’ succinct description of her experience last week driving her bus-missing ninth-grade daughter to school. Getting up is bad enough for the average teenager, but getting up in the dark? As Masters, a professor of physics and astronomy at Haverford College, is well aware, relief is imminent. At 7:34:22 a.m., Saturday’s was the latest sunrise of the year. It will show up at 6:35:35 a.m. Sunday.

3. Sleep health

Yes, those first few days of predinner darkness can be depressing, but sleep specialists say the early darkness is way better for our inner clocks. Till Roenneberg, a German researcher who specializes in chronobiology, says that two-thirds of us suffer year-round “social jet lag,” with symptoms that include insomnia and fatigue, as a result of moving the clocks up an hour in spring.

» READ MORE: 10 tips for better sleep

4. Light loss lessening

In October we were losing as much as 2 minutes and 38 seconds of daily sunlight. As of Sunday that’s down to just over two minutes, and will be near zero as we approach the winter solstice. What’s more, the light is becoming ever more oblique and dramatic. Don’t miss the treetops at sunset!

5. Nature’s bare beauties

They’ve been lovely while they lasted, but soon the deciduous trees are going to shed all those leaves, and that means more sunlight will be filtering through. What’s more, the trees will be showing off their architecture, the branches so many nerve endings against the sky. To invoke Andrew Wyeth, that’s “when you feel the bone structure of the landscape. ... The whole story doesn’t show to hint at what’s to come.”

6. Getting taller, and thinner

At least our shadows are. At midafternoon Sunday they will be about twice as long as they were at the same time on March 14, when the clocks went forward. This has to with the “analemma” pattern, related to the orbit of the planet and its axial tilt. We’ll leave it at that: By the time we explain, chances are that many of our readers will be looking for the beat writers’ predictions for the Eagles game.

7. Starry nights

“The night sky becomes more a part of the day.” That’s Haverford’s Masters again. Jupiter, to the south-southwest, and the stars make their appearances sooner. And the longer nights give us all the more time to savor it all. Says Masters, “I don’t stay up and see the night skies in the summertime because it’s so late.”

» READ MORE: Stargazing around Philadelphia: Everything you need to know

8. Moonshine

Earlier nightfalls are a gift for connoisseurs of moonlight and moon shadows. The next full moon occurs Nov. 19, and it will be cooking bright and white not long after sunset since it rises at 4:55 p.m. And don’t forget the preceding three nights, when it will be close to fullness and will be rising even earlier.

9. Aurora bonus?

Bill Murtagh, a NASA space-weather forecaster — yes, space has “weather” — says it appears that sunspot activity is picking up after a yearslong lull. That means more solar storms banging against our magnetosphere and more chances for the northern lights to be visible nearby. The more darkness, the better our odds.

10. It’s Savor Day

For a day at least, an hour can truly seem significant. In years past on clock-change day, some have been known to resolve to make the most of that extra hour, only to fall back into old routines by about Tuesday. Maybe this year will be different: You can’t do anything any sooner than now.