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Does Iceland have the tradition of changing the clocks twice each year?

Ask IR

Does Iceland have the tradition of changing the clocks twice each year?

Q: I really enjoyed your piece about enjoying the winter’s darkness.

It made me wonder if Iceland has the same crazy tradition of changing the clocks twice each year, as we do in the US. In the autumn we set the clocks back one hour, and then in the spring we reset them to the correct time again. Everybody hates this, and the entire state of Arizona refuses to go along with it at all.

We call it “daylight savings time.”

Does Iceland inflict this temporal torture on its citizens as well?

Michael Kelly, USA

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A: No, the clocks are not changed twice a year in Iceland as in most other countries. The time stays the same all-year round. It wasn't always like that, though. According to the Almanac of the University of Iceland, between 1943 and 1968 Icelanders changed the clocks twice a year. After that “summer time” was made the standard time in Iceland and it remained the same all year round. It has, however, been discussed to change it again.

A bill, which was submitted to the Althingi parliament’s 126th legislative session in 2000-2001 but never accepted, proposes Iceland changes the clocks twice a year like other countries. It states it is inconvenient for Icelandic companies that have business partners in other countries that Iceland has a different time system. The time difference between Iceland and the European mainland is, for example, two hours in summer and one hour in winter. The bill states this arrangement is also inconvenient for airlines flying to Iceland.

Some argue that changing the clocks affects people’s health in a negative way and causes more traffic accidents, but according to the bill, those arguments do not hold water. On the contrary, changing the clocks has positive effects since people can enjoy the daylight longer. The bill admits changing the clocks would cause temporal disorder to the operations of companies and schools, yet states there would be more advantages than disadvantages involved if Iceland adopts this system.

But the bill was never accepted so the clocks in Iceland remain unchanged.