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Iceland's clocks to stay as they are

01.09.2020 - 13:41
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 Mynd: RÚV
Iceland’s government has decided to leave the nation’s clocks unchanged following an “extensive review of the pros and cons of putting the clocks back by one hour,” the official government website states; explaining that putting the clocks back would have led to 13 percent fewer daylight hours for people to enjoy per year.

The news comes at the end of a consultation process started in January last year by the prime minister, asking experts and the public whether Iceland should change its clocks.

Currently Iceland uses UTC all year round, which puts it on the same time as London, Dublin, and Lisbon in the winter, and an hour behind them in the summer. Iceland’s position further west, however, means noon occurs at roughly 13.30 in Reykjavík, instead of the more usual 12.00. 

One of the principle arguments against changing the time is that the number of daylight hours between 07.00 and 23.00 over the whole year would actually go down by 13 percent. 

The consultation put three options forth: 

  1. No change to the clocks, but people encouraged to go to bed earlier through increased education on the importance of sleep. 
  2. Put Iceland’s clocks back by one hour. 
  3. No change to the clocks, but schools and even companies and agencies encouraged to start work later in the morning. 

Around 1,600 people registered comments on the public consultation website, including 37 percent who wanted to leave the clock unchanged and 56 percent who wanted to change it. 

Today’s statement explains the decision not to change the time: “The negative effect of the reduction in daylight during waking hours and the reduction in daylight hours at the end of the day, which could reduce outdoor recreation and exercise, are not well-enough known.” Daylight hours would have reduced by 13 percent per year by changing the clocks, according to the government.

There are around two months of constant daylight in Iceland around midsummer, but only around four or five hours of daylight per day in midwinter. The clocks make the most difference in "fringe" months such as November and February, when work and school begin in darkness but the evenings are brighter for longer instead. A typical mid-to-late February day, for example, might stay dark until 10.00 but then remain light until 18.00. People are, on balance, believed more likely to enjoy outdoor recreation after work or school than before.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir told RÚV at the start of the consultation that she had been cautious of the idea of changing the clocks but that her opinion had developed after she started reading reports on scientific research into the effect of sleep on people’s health and wellbeing. 

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