What is UTC?

When browsing weather websites (like the Real Time Weather website), you normally come across some sort of weather map that is tamped with time that is labeled with a number that does not make much sense with UTC right behind it. What does UTC mean? UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time and is what the world uses to regulate clocks and time as well as in aviation for flight plans and air traffic control clearances. It is also the time standard used for many internet and World Wide Web standards. Of course we know that it is used in weather.

So why do we call it UTC when it stands for Coordinated Universal Time? Well it came from a desire for an abbreviation that would be used in all languages. Those who spoke English wanted the abbreviation to be “CUT” while French speakers propsed “TUC” for “temps universel coordonnne”. Thus the abbreviation UTC was born.

Now, for those of us who want to impress those around us, how would one go about converting the current time to UTC? Well, for those of us in Central Time Zone (CDT) and it is not daylight savings time, you just add six hours to what ever we have for the current time (that is, within the 24 hour clock). If there just isn’t enough hours in the day for one to turn CDT into UTC, then it would just carry over into the next day. Say it is October 3rd and the time is 10 a.m., you would add six hours, so the time would be 16 UTC. Likewise with it being 10 p.m on the same day, you would add six hours to get October 4th at 3 UTC. But, for those who observe Day Light Savings, you would only add on five hours to what ever time you are trying to convert.

Now even for the most weather savvy, converting to UTC can be difficult to do. So, I, like many others, just pull up a chart and look at that to help us figure out the times.

Conversion table courtesy National Weather Service Southern Region Headquarters.

Here’s a link to a chart that I use any time I need to quickly convert CST to UTC.

-Emily Pogatshnik

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