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Time Zones

Around the world and within the United States, there are different time zones. We need time zones because the Earth is always moving around the Sun, and the Sun rises and sets at different times. If we didn’t have time zones, it would be the same time everywhere but different parts of the day.

For example: If it were 8:00 AM everywhere, the sun would be directly over one part of the world but it would be the middle of the night on the other side of the world. That would be incredibly confusing.

Time zones help keep things consistent. Each time zone is an hour apart and thus, when it is 9:00 AM in one time zone, it is 8:00 AM  in another time zone.

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)

Time zones are based on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Greenwich is a town in England, and all the time zones are based on either being hours ahead of this time zone or hours behind this time zone. 

The continental United States is divided into 4 main time zones:

1. Eastern Time Zone

2. Central Time Zone

3. Mountain Time Zone

4. Pacific Time Zone

As you can see in the chart given below, the US time zones start at 5 hours after GMT and go to 8 hours after GMT.

Each time zone is an hour apart.  For example: If it is 7:00 AM in New York (Eastern Time), it is 6:00 AM in the Oklahoma (Central Time Zone), 5:00 AM in Colorado (Mountain Time Zone), and 4:00 AM in California (Pacific Time Zone.) This makes sense because if it’s 7:00 AM in New York, the sun is probably just rising. It will take another hour for the sun to rise in Oklahoma and even longer for it to rise in Colorado or California.

 

How to determine time in different zones:

1. Count how many time zones apart the locations are. This is how many hours different they will be.

2. Add or subtract the time. Remember that it’s always later in the day in the Eastern Time Zone than the Pacific Time Zone.

3. If you’re finding out a time more to the east, add the time. If you’re finding out a time more to the west, subtract the time.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Let’s use the United States time zones to practice.

1. It is 2:35 PM in Virginia. What time is it in Utah?

First, we must determine how many time zones apart these states are.

Virginia is in the Eastern Time Zone, and Utah is in the Mountain Time Zone.

These are two zones apart (Eastern to Central then Central to Mountain).

Since they’re two zones apart, we will either add or subtract two hours.

Since  Eastern Time Zone is ahead of  Mountain Time Zone, we will subtract to find the earlier time.

Subtract 2 hours from 2:35 to get 12:35 PM (Remember 12:00 comes before 1:00).

It would be later towards the Eastern Zone and 2:35 is later than 12:35.

Answer: 12:35 PM.

2. Anderson is eating dinner at 6:10 PM in California. What time is it in Vermont?

First, we must determine how many time zones apart these states are.

California is in the Pacific Time Zone, and Vermont is in the Eastern Time Zone.

These are three zones apart.

Since they’re three zones apart, we will either add or subtract three hours.

It’s always later in the day in the Eastern Time Zone, so that means we’ll need to add three hours in order for the time in Vermont to be later.

Add 3 hours to 6:10 PM to get 9:10 PM

This makes sense because it’s later on the East Coast than the west and 9:10 is later than 6:10.

 

Answer: 9:10 PM.

3. Alice, who lives in New Mexico, wakes up at 6:45 AM and wants to call her cousin who lives in Mississippi. What time is it in Mississippi?

First, we must determine how many time zones apart these states are.

New Mexico is in the Mountain Time Zone, and Mississippi is in the Central Time Zone.

They are just one zone apart.

Since they’re one zone apart, we will either add or subtract one hour.

It’s always later in the day in the Eastern Time Zone, so that means we’ll need to add one hour in order for the time in Mississippi to be later.

Add 1 hour to 6:45 AM to get 7:45 AM.

This makes sense because it’s should be later towards the Eastern Time Zone, and 7:45 is later than 6:45.

Answer: 7:45 AM

 

Summary

Determining time in different time zones:

1. Time zones are based on GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).Greenwich is a town in England, and all the time zones are based on either being hours ahead of this time zone or hours behind this time zone. 

2. US time zones start at 5 hours after GMT and go to 8 hours after GMT.

 

Steps to determine time in different zones:

1. Count how many time zones apart the locations are. This is how many hours different they will be.

2. Add or subtract the time. Remember that it’s always later in the day in the Eastern Time Zone than the Pacific Time Zone.

Note: If you’re finding out a time more to the east, add the time. If you’re finding out a time more to the west, subtract the time.

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