Time zones have been created for a wide variety of social, legal and commercial reasons. Truth be told, it is very helpful for countries and people who do business together and who conduct all sorts of other activities together to keep the same time. Because of this fact, time zones usually follow the boundaries of countries. To make things simple, all time zones are defined by the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). But most people don’t know exactly what a time zone is. They may not know what UTC is either. In fact, most people erroneously believe they are in the UTC time zone, when they are really in the GMT time zone. So let’s explain what time zones are, what UTC is and what it is used for, and then analyze the EST time zone. You can also find some very fun to read facts about time zones towards the bottom of the page.
UTC and UTC Offset: What Are They?
UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time. It is the standard when it comes to measuring time around the world. All time zones are UTC plus or minus some time (usually one of more hours). In other words, EST for example is UTC-05:00. This difference from UTC time is the UTC offset. In the case of the Eastern Standard Time zone, the time is 5 hours behind UTC time. The offset is usually one or more whole hours, but there are countries with offsets of 30 minutes (India, for example) and even 45 minutes (Nepal, for example). And while there are many countries that are split between time zones (Russia spans over 12 of them), there are also countries that are entirely in one large time zone (China, for example).
What Are Eastern Standard Time (EST) and Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)?
EST (Or Eastern Standard Time Zone) is UTC-5:00. In other words, the Eastern Standard Time zone has an UTC offset of minus 5 hours. This means that all regions in the Eastern Standard Time Zone are 5 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time. When it is 12 PM in London (which is in UTC), it is just 7 PM in Connecticut and Ontario.
Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) is just 4 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC-4:00) because it takes into account daylight saving time. Daylight saving time is observed during spring and summer. The states in the EST time zone move to the EDT time zone on the second Sunday of March. They transition back to EST in the first Sunday of November.
Territories in the Eastern Standard Time Zone
The Eastern Standard Time zone covers the eastern part of the United States, some parts of Canada, and a single state in Mexico: Quintana Roo. Also, EST time is being used in Panama, in Acre and part of Amazonas (both in Brazil), in Colombia, in Ecuador, and in the Caribbean Islands (Cuba included).
There are a total of 17 states that are entirely in the EST time zone in the United States. However, be aware that some of these states observe Daylight Saving Time, so they will transition to the EDT time zone during the summer months. They will return to EST time on the second Sunday of March, at 2 AM, however. Here are the states that are encompassed by the EST zone in the US:
- New York
- West Virginia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
Also, in the United States, there are 5 states that are split between the Eastern Time Zone and Central Standard Time (CST): Indiana, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, and Michigan.
In Canada, there are just three territories that are partly in the EST time zone: Quebec, Ontario and Nunavut. It is also important to note that these provinces observe Daylight Saving Time in sync with the US, even though there are some very minor exceptions.
The EST Time Zone Major Cities in EST Time Zone
Because the EST time zone covers so much of the United States, there are dozens of major cities in the EST time zone in the US. In fact, most people think about the United States when they hear EST time. And they are not wrong to do so. Notable examples of large cities in the US include New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Florida, New Jersey, Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, and Cleveland. Other major cities in the EST time zone are Ontario, Quebec, Guayaquil, Hamilton, Bogota, Nassau, Lima, Panama City, Quito, and Havana.
It is estimated that almost 142 million people reside in the Eastern Standard Time Zone of the United States. New York (over 19 million people), Florida (almost 17 million people), and Pennsylvania (around 12.5 million people) contribute the most to the total number of residents. However, even though this number seems pretty large, it is not. China, for example, is entirely in one time zone. And China has almost 1.38 billion people (as of 2016).
Little-Known Facts About Time Zones
Without time zones, it would be impossible for the Sun to be at its highest point in the sky at noon in all countries on Earth. The Earth rotates 15 degrees per hour, so it makes sense to divide the world into 24 time zones, with each one of them being 15 degrees in size. Now that you know what time zones are and how they are used, and also know what UTC and the UTC offset are, let’s take a look at some interesting things when it comes to time zones:
- The continental United States has four different time zones: Mountain Time Zone, Central Time Zone, Eastern Time Zone, and Pacific Times Zone.
- UTC, also known as Greenwich Mean Time, is centered at the Greenwich Observatory in England. The point is, obviously, called the Greenwich Meridian.
- The EST time zone is the de facto official time for the entire United States because it is the time zone of the capital city, which is Washington D.C.
- Over half of the United States population is in the Eastern Time zone and EST also includes the most populous city in the US, New York City.
- TV Schedules in the US are most of the time posted in Eastern Time, and so are most newspapers. Programs are broadcasted at different hours across the United States to take into account the different time zones. Live events, however, are scheduled in Eastern Time and Pacific Time. Viewers must calculate the starting hour on their own if they are in a different time zone.
- Canada uses the same number of time zones as the United States: 6. However, France has by far the most time zones because it has a number of territories around the world. There are 12 time zones in France in total.
- All computers and mobile phones will automatically adjust their clock when they get to a different time zone. However, your wristwatch will not; you need to adjust it manually.
- Russia is geographically located in 12 time zones. However, in 2010, Putin decided to erase 3 of the time zones, so now Russia only has 9 times zones. The decision was taken to aid commerce and communications between some of the vast regions of Russia and Moscow.
- Taking a plane to a region that has a negative UTC offset is like going back in time. You may leave at 8 PM and arrive in the other country at 4 PM. This happens because of time zone differences and is the cause for jet lag.