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UTC: The time at zero degrees longitude (the Prime Meridian) is called Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). GMT: UTC used to be called Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) because the Prime Meridian was (arbitrarily) chosen to pass through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Other timezones can be written as an offset from UTC. Australian Eastern Standard Time is UTC+1000. e.g. 10:00 UTC is 20:00 EST on the same day. Daylight saving does not affect UTC. It's just a polity deciding to change its timezone (offset from UTC). For example, GMT is still used: it's the British national timezone in winter. In summer it becomes BST. Leap seconds: By international convention, UTC (which is an arbitrary human invention) is kept within 0.9 seconds of physical reality (UT1, which is a measure of solar time) by introducing a "leap second" in the last minute of the UTC year, or in the last minute of June. Leap seconds don't have to be announced much more than six months before they happen. This is a problem if you need second-accurate planning beyond six months. Unix time: Measured as the number of seconds since epoch (the beginning of 1970 in UTC). Unix time is not affected by time zones or daylight saving.

According to POSIX.1, Unix time is supposed to handle a leap second by replaying the previous second. e.g.:

59.00 59.25 59.50 59.75 59.00 ← replay 59.25 59.50 59.75 00.00 ← increment 00.25

This is a trade-off: you can't represent a leap second, and your time is guaranteed to go backwards. On the other hand, every day is exactly 86,400 seconds long, and you don't need a table of all previous and future leap seconds in order to format Unix time as human-preferred hours-minutes-seconds. ntpd is supposed to make the replay happen after it sees the "leap bits" from upstream timeservers, but I've also seen it do nothing: the system goes one second into the future, then slowly slews back to the correct time.

What every programmer should know about time:

Timezones are a presentation-layer problem! Most of your code shouldn't be dealing with timezones or local time, it should be passing Unix time around. When measuring time, measure Unix time. It's UTC. It's easy to obtain. It doesn't have timezone offsets or daylight saving (or leap seconds). When storing time, store Unix time. It's a single number. If you want to store a humanly-readable time (e.g. logs), consider storing it along with Unix time, not instead of Unix time. When displaying time, always include the timezone offset. A time format without an offset is useless. The system clock is inaccurate. You're on a network? Every other system's clock is differently inaccurate. The system clock can, and will, jump backwards and forwards in time due to things outside of your control. Your program should be designed to survive this. The number of [clock] seconds per [real] second is both inaccurate and variable. It mostly varies with temperature. Don't blindly use gettimeofday(). If you need a monotonic (always increasing) clock, have a look at clock_gettime(). ntpd can change the system time in two ways: Step: making the clock jump backwards or forwards to the correct time instantaneously. Slew: changing the frequency of the clock so that it slowly drifts toward the correct time. Slew is preferred because it's less disruptive, but it's only useful for correcting small offsets.

Special mentions

Time passes at a rate of one second per second for every observer. The frequency of a remote clock relative to an observer is affected by velocity and gravity. The clocks inside GPS satellites are adjusted for relativistic effects. MySQL (at least 4.x and 5.x) stores DATETIME columns as a "YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS" string. I'm not even kidding. If you care at all about storing timestamps, store them as integers and use the UNIX_TIMESTAMP() and FROM_UNIXTIME() functions.


All of these assumptions are wrong:

  1. There are always 24 hours in a day.
  2. Months have either 30 or 31 days.
  3. Years have 365 days.
  4. February is always 28 days long.
  5. Any 24-hour period will always begin and end in the same day (or week, or month).
  6. A week always begins and ends in the same month.
  7. A week (or a month) always begins and ends in the same year.
  8. The machine that a program runs on will always be in the GMT time zone.
  9. The Time zone in which a program has to run will never change.
  10. There will never be a change to the time zone in which a program hast to run in production.
  11. The system clock will always be set to the correct local time.
  12. The system clock will always be set to a time that is not wildly different from the correct local time.
  13. If the system clock is incorrect, it will at least always be off by a consistent number of seconds.
  14. The server clock and the client clock will always be set to the same time.
  15. The server clock and the client clock will always be set to around the same time.
  16. The time on the server clock and time on the client clock would never be different by a matter of decades.
  17. If the server clock and the client clock are not in synch, they will at least always be out of synch by a consistent number of seconds.
  18. The server clock and the client clock will use the same time zone.
  19. The system clock will never be set to a time that is in the distant past or the far future.
  20. Time has no beginning and no end.
  21. One minute on the system clock has exactly the same duration as one minute on any other clock
  22. The duration of one minute on the system clock will be pretty close to the duration of one minute on most other clocks.
  23. The duration of one minute on the system clock would never be more than an hour.
  24. The smallest unit of time is one second.
  25. It will never be necessary to set the system time to any value other than the correct local time.
  26. Testing might require setting the system time to a value other than the correct local time but it will never be necessary to do so in production.
  27. Time stamps will always be specified in a commonly-understood format like 1339972628 or 133997262837.
  28. Time stamps will always be specified in the same format.
  29. Time stamps will always have the same level of precision.
  30. A time stamp of sufficient precision can safely be considered unique.
  31. A timestamp represents the time that an event actually occurred.
  32. Human-readable dates can be specified in universally understood formats such as 05/07/11.

  33. The offsets between two time zones will remain constant.

  34. OK, historical oddities aside, the offsets between two time zones won’t change in the future.
  35. Changes in the offsets between time zones will occur with plenty of advance notice.
  36. Daylight saving time happens at the same time every year.
  37. Daylight saving time happens at the same time in every time zone.
  38. Daylight saving time always adjusts by an hour.
  39. Months have either 28, 29, 30, or 31 days.
  40. The day of the month always advances contiguously from N to either N+1 or 1, with no discontinuities.
  41. There is only one calendar system in use at one time.
  42. There is a leap year every year divisible by 4.
  43. Non leap years will never contain a leap day.
  44. It will be easy to calculate the duration of x number of hours and minutes from a particular point in time.
  45. The same month has the same number of days in it everywhere!
  46. Unix time is completely ignorant about anything except seconds.
  47. Unix time is the number of seconds since Jan 1st 1970.
  48. The day before Saturday is always Friday.
  49. Contiguous timezones are no more than an hour apart. (aka we don’t need to test what happens to the avionics when you fly over the International Date Line)
  50. Two timezones that differ will differ by an integer number of half hours.
  51. Okay, quarter hours.
  52. Okay, seconds, but it will be a consistent difference if we ignore DST.
  53. If you create two date objects right beside each other, they’ll represent the same time. (a fantastic Heisenbug generator)
  54. You can wait for the clock to reach exactly HH:MM:SS by sampling once a second.
  55. If a process runs for n seconds and then terminates, approximately n seconds will have elapsed on the system clock at the time of termination.
  56. Weeks start on Monday.
  57. Days begin in the morning.
  58. Holidays span an integer number of whole days.
  59. The weekend consists of Saturday and Sunday.
  60. It’s possible to establish a total ordering on timestamps that is useful outside your system.
  61. The local time offset (from UTC) will not change during office hours.
  62. Thread.sleep(1000) sleeps for 1000 milliseconds.
  63. Thread.sleep(1000) sleeps for >= 1000 milliseconds.
  64. There are 60 seconds in every minute.
  65. Timestamps always advance monotonically.
  66. GMT and UTC are the same timezone.
  67. Britain uses GMT.
  68. Time always goes forwards.
  69. The difference between the current time and one week from the current time is always 7 * 86400 seconds.
  70. The difference between two timestamps is an accurate measure of the time that elapsed between them.
  71. 24:12:34 is an invalid time
  72. Every integer is a theoretical possible year
  73. If you display a datetime, the displayed time has the same second part as the stored time
  74. Or the same year
  75. But at least the numerical difference between the displayed and stored year will be less than 2
  76. If you have a date in a correct YYYY-MM-DD format, the year consists of four characters
  77. If you merge two dates, by taking the month from the first and the day/year from the second, you get a valid date
  78. But it will work, if both years are leap years
  79. If you take a w3c published algorithm for adding durations to dates, it will work in all cases.
  80. The standard library supports negative years and years above 10000.
  81. Time zones always differ by a whole hour
  82. If you convert a timestamp with millisecond precision to a date time with second precision, you can safely ignore the millisecond fractions
  83. But you can ignore the millisecond fraction, if it is less than 0.5
  84. Two-digit years should be somewhere in the range 1900-2099
  85. If you parse a date time, you can read the numbers character for character, without needing to backtrack
  86. But if you print a date time, you can write the numbers character for character, without needing to backtrack
  87. You will never have to parse a format like ---12Z or P12Y34M56DT78H90M12.345S
  88. There are only 24 time zones
  89. Time zones are always whole hours away from UTC
  90. Daylight Saving Time (DST) starts/ends on the same date everywhere
  91. DST is always an advancement by 1 hour
  92. Reading the client’s clock and comparing to UTC is a good way to determine their timezone
  93. The software stack will/won’t try to automatically adjust for timezone/DST
  94. My software is only used internally/locally, so I don’t have to worry about timezones
  95. My software stack will handle it without me needing to do anything special
  96. I can easily maintain a timezone list myself
  97. All measurements of time on a given clock will occur within the same frame of reference.
  98. The fact that a date-based function works now means it will work on any date.
  99. Years have 365 or 366 days.
  100. Each calendar date is followed by the next in sequence, without skipping.
  101. A given date and/or time unambiguously identifies a unique moment.
  102. Leap years occur every 4 years.
  103. You can determine the time zone from the state/province.
  104. You can determine the time zone from the city/town.
  105. Time passes at the same speed on top of a mountain and at the bottom of a valley.
  106. One hour is as long as the next in all time systems.
  107. You can calculate when leap seconds will be added.
  108. The precision of the data type returned by a getCurrentTime() function is the same as the precision of that function.
  109. Two subsequent calls to a getCurrentTime() function will return distinct results.
  110. The second of two subsequent calls to a getCurrentTime() function will return a larger result.
  111. The software will never run on a space ship that is orbiting a black hole.

Some source credited to

Time zone


10 Azores Standard Time (GMT-01:00) Azores Atlantic/Azores
12 Cape Verde Standard Time (GMT-01:00) Cape Verde Islands Atlantic/Cape_Verde
43 Mid-Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-02:00) Mid-Atlantic Atlantic/South_Georgia
27 E. South America Standard Time (GMT-03:00) Brasilia America/Sao_Paulo
58 SA Eastern Standard Time (GMT-03:00) Buenos Aires, Georgetown America/Argentina/Buenos_Aires
35 Greenland Standard Time (GMT-03:00) Greenland America/Godthab
51 Newfoundland Standard Time (GMT-03:30) Newfoundland and Labrador America/St_Johns
06 Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-04:00) Atlantic Time (Canada) America/Halifax
60 SA Western Standard Time (GMT-04:00) Caracas, La Paz America/La_Paz
17 Central Brazilian Standard Time (GMT-04:00) Manaus America/Cuiaba
54 Pacific SA Standard Time (GMT-04:00) Santiago America/Santiago
59 SA Pacific Standard Time (GMT-05:00) Bogota, Lima, Quito America/Bogota
28 Eastern Standard Time (GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US and Canada) America/New_York
70 US Eastern Standard Time (GMT-05:00) Indiana (East) America/Indiana/Indianapolis
15 Central America Standard Time (GMT-06:00) Central America America/Costa_Rica
21 Central Standard Time (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US and Canada) America/Chicago
22 Central Standard Time (Mexico) (GMT-06:00) Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey America/Monterrey
11 Canada Central Standard Time (GMT-06:00) Saskatchewan America/Edmonton
71 US Mountain Standard Time (GMT-07:00) Arizona America/Phoenix
45 Mountain Standard Time (Mexico) (GMT-07:00) Chihuahua, La Paz, Mazatlan America/Chihuahua
44 Mountain Standard Time (GMT-07:00) Mountain Time (US and Canada) America/Denver
55 Pacific Standard Time (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US and Canada), Tijuana America/Tijuana
02 Alaskan Standard Time (GMT-09:00) Alaska America/Anchorage
38 Hawaiian Standard Time (GMT-10:00) Hawaii Pacific/Honolulu
61 Samoa Standard Time (GMT-11:00) Midway Island, Samoa Pacific/Apia
36 Greenwich Standard Time (GMT) Casablanca, Monrovia Africa/Monrovia
34 GMT Standard Time (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time : Dublin, Edinburgh, Lisbon, London Europe/London
75 W. Europe Standard Time (GMT+01:00) Amsterdam, Berlin, Bern, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna Europe/Berlin
18 Central Europe Standard Time (GMT+01:00) Belgrade, Bratislava, Budapest, Ljubljana, Prague Europe/Belgrade
56 Romance Standard Time (GMT+01:00) Brussels, Copenhagen, Madrid, Paris Europe/Paris
19 Central European Standard Time (GMT+01:00) Sarajevo, Skopje, Warsaw, Zagreb Europe/Belgrade
74 W. Central Africa Standard Time (GMT+01:00) West Central Africa Africa/Lagos
37 GTB Standard Time (GMT+02:00) Athens, Bucharest, Istanbul Europe/Istanbul
29 Egypt Standard Time (GMT+02:00) Cairo Africa/Cairo
64 South Africa Standard Time (GMT+02:00) Harare, Pretoria Africa/Harare
32 FLE Standard Time (GMT+02:00) Helsinki, Kiev, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius Europe/Riga
41 Israel Standard Time (GMT+02:00) Jerusalem Asia/Jerusalem
26 E. Europe Standard Time (GMT+02:00) Minsk Europe/Minsk
48 Namibia Standard Time (GMT+02:00) Windhoek Africa/Windhoek
05 Arabic Standard Time (GMT+03:00) Baghdad Asia/Baghdad
03 Arab Standard Time (GMT+03:00) Kuwait, Riyadh Asia/Kuwait
57 Russian Standard Time (GMT+03:00) Moscow, St. Petersburg, Volgograd Europe/Moscow
24 E. Africa Standard Time (GMT+03:00) Nairobi Africa/Nairobi
40 Iran Standard Time (GMT+03:30) Tehran Asia/Tehran
04 Arabian Standard Time (GMT+04:00) Abu Dhabi, Muscat Asia/Muscat
09 Azerbaijan Standard Time (GMT+04:00) Baku Asia/Baku
33 Georgian Standard Time (GMT+04:00) Tblisi Asia/Tbilisi
13 Caucasus Standard Time (GMT+04:00) Yerevan Asia/Yerevan
01 Afghanistan Standard Time (GMT+04:30) Kabul Asia/Kabul
30 Ekaterinburg Standard Time (GMT+05:00) Ekaterinburg Asia/Yekaterinburg
76 West Asia Standard Time (GMT+05:00) Islamabad, Karachi, Tashkent Asia/Tashkent
39 India Standard Time (GMT+05:30) Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi Asia/Calcutta
49 Nepal Standard Time (GMT+05:45) Kathmandu Asia/Kathmandu
47 N. Central Asia Standard Time (GMT+06:00) Almaty, Novosibirsk Asia/Novosibirsk
16 Central Asia Standard Time (GMT+06:00) Astana, Dhaka Asia/Almaty
65 Sri Lanka Standard Time (GMT+06:00) Sri Jayawardenepura Asia/Colombo
46 Myanmar Standard Time (GMT+06:30) Yangon (Rangoon) Asia/Rangoon
62 SE Asia Standard Time (GMT+07:00) Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta Asia/Bangkok
53 North Asia Standard Time (GMT+07:00) Krasnoyarsk Asia/Krasnoyarsk
23 China Standard Time (GMT+08:00) Beijing, Chongqing, Hong Kong SAR, Urumqi Asia/Shanghai
52 North Asia East Standard Time (GMT+08:00) Irkutsk, Ulaanbaatar Asia/Irkutsk
63 Singapore Standard Time (GMT+08:00) Kuala Lumpur, Singapore Asia/Singapore
73 W. Australia Standard Time (GMT+08:00) Perth Australia/Perth
66 Taipei Standard Time (GMT+08:00) Taipei Asia/Taipei
68 Tokyo Standard Time (GMT+09:00) Osaka, Sapporo, Tokyo Asia/Tokyo
42 Korea Standard Time (GMT+09:00) Seoul Asia/Seoul
78 Yakutsk Standard Time (GMT+09:00) Yakutsk Asia/Yakutsk
14 Cen. Australia Standard Time (GMT+09:30) Adelaide Australia/Adelaide
07 AUS Central Standard Time (GMT+09:30) Darwin Australia/Darwin
25 E. Australia Standard Time (GMT+10:00) Brisbane Australia/Brisbane
08 AUS Eastern Standard Time (GMT+10:00) Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney Australia/Sydney
77 West Pacific Standard Time (GMT+10:00) Guam, Port Moresby Pacific/Guam
67 Tasmania Standard Time (GMT+10:00) Hobart Australia/Hobart
72 Vladivostok Standard Time (GMT+10:00) Vladivostok Asia/Vladivostok
20 Central Pacific Standard Time (GMT+11:00) Magadan, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia Pacific/Guadalcanal
50 New Zealand Standard Time (GMT+12:00) Auckland, Wellington Pacific/Auckland
31 Fiji Standard Time (GMT+12:00) Fiji Islands, Kamchatka, Marshall Islands Pacific/Fiji
69 Tonga Standard Time (GMT+13:00) Nuku'alofa Pacific/Tongatapu