US time zones affect many aspects of American life. They impact travel, scheduling of sporting events, class times, and even television broadcast schedules. Six standard time zones span across the Continental United States and Alaska and Hawaii. The vast majority observes Daylight Savings Time from the Spring to the Fall and there are four time zones in the Continental United States.
What are the different US Time Zones?
US Time Zones and Transportation
In the early years of the country, the day was marked in solar time, with the sun’s zenith serving as noon. As the country expanded westward, more and more people were drawn to travel. Early transportation was slow and changes in daylight and time seemed imperceptible. The need for time zones in the United States didn’t become necessary until the country expanded further west and railroads improved the speed of travel.
Initially, there were over 300 local solar time zones in cities across the country. Trains began keeping their own times and railroads set their own time zones. Eventually, the railroads decided on a more manageable 100 time zones, but scheduling and early travel by rail were still extremely confusing. A more consistent, permanent solution was required.
Finally, at noon on November 18th, 1883, the Continental United States was divided into four standard time zones with times being transmitted by telegraph to major cities across the country. The plan synchronized schedule times for the railroad companies, impacting the country in travel and other areas from that point on. Today, US time zones and daylight savings time are still regulated by the Department of Transportation.
Standard US Time Zones Across the Country
Heading from east to west, there are six time zones in the United States, each encompassing exactly an hour. A traveler would gain an hour for each time zone they cross when going from east to west. If it is noon in the easternmost time zone it would be 6 a.m. in Hawaii.
The four time zones across the Continental United States include:
- The Eastern Time Zone – Roughly, the eastern quarter of the United States is in the Eastern Time Zone. Along with the nation’s capital, seventeen entire states are in Eastern Time Zone. Five states are partially in the Eastern Time Zone and the Central Time Zone. The Eastern Time Zone ranges from the East Coast of the United States to a line that runs roughly from Western Florida up through Western Indiana and Michigan.
- The Central Time Zone – Along with the five states partially in the Eastern Time Zone, nine states are completely in the Central Time Zone. Another seven share time zones with the Mountain Time Zone. The zone runs south to north on the east from Alabama up to Minnesota and on the west from Texas north through North Dakota.
- The Mountain Time Zone – Along with the seven states in the Mountain Time Zone partially in the Central Time Zone, five states are fully within the Mountain Time Zone. Three additional States are partially within the Pacific Time Zone. The Mountain Time zone encompasses an area from New Mexico and Arizona to the south to Wyoming to the north.
- The Pacific Time Zone – Only California and Washington are contained entirely with the Pacific Time Zone. Idaho, Nevada and Oregon share space with the Mountain Time Zone. The State of Alaska is split between the Pacific Time Zone and the Alaska Time Zone.
Most of the State of Alaska is in the Alaska Time Zone with Hawaii contained within the Hawaii-Aleutian Time Zone.
Here is a quick informative video from lordcoyote2000 about US time zones:
If you are traveling to or within the United States, understanding the different US time zones is critical in keeping you on schedule. Even if you are not traveling by train.
Did this article help you understand more about the time differences? Share your thoughts in the comments below!