Time zones in the United States can get a bit confusing. This is because you may sometimes see the time zone of certain places being referenced in one of three ways. For example, in Portland, Oregon you may see time referenced as PST, PDT, or PT. But, which one of these is correct?
Technically, all three of them are correct. PST is the standard time zone for Portland, Oregon. PDT is used during daylight saving time (DST) and PT is used to refer to both i.e. the current local time.
Seems confusing? Don’t worry. It isn’t that confusing. Let’s explain!
What Is PST?
Pacific Standard Time, or PST for short, is the ‘base’ time zone for Portland, Oregon.
PST runs from the first Sunday in November all the way through to the second Sunday of March.
This is UTC-8.
PST is not just followed by Portland, Oregon, but almost the entirety of the state. The only part of Oregon that does not use PST, PDT, or PT will be Malheur County.
What Is PDT?
When daylight saving time (DST) rolls around, then the clocks in Portland, Oregon switch to Pacific Daylight Time (PDT). This means from March to November.
PDT is UTC-7.
Again, this applies to almost all of Oregon. There are only select parts of the state that are in a different time zone.
If Oregon ever decides to ditch DST, then this time zone will technically no longer exist. Since there are some indications that the US may ditch DST as a whole eventually, there may be a time in the future when you never have to know what PDT means.
Remember, whenever the switchover to DST and back occurs, the time change will always happen at 2 am. This means that, depending on the change, the clocks could go back to 1 am or forward to 3 am.
What Is PT?
You will rarely see PST and PDT used when discussing time zones in Portland, Oregon. Instead, you will see times listed as Pacific Time (PT). So, what does this mean?
Well, it is whatever the local time is. PT is a completely fluid time zone. When it is PST, the PT will refer to UTC-8. When it is PDT, the PT will refer to UTC-7.
So, why do we use PT? Well, it is because it is a whole lot less confusing than trying to work out what PDT or PST means.
If you live in Portland, Oregon, then you know that if somebody says “PT”, it is whatever time it is there at the moment that time rolls around.
This is something that comes in especially useful when the state is preparing to switch between DST and standard time. If somebody gives you a time in PT for the future, then you will know that that will be the local time regardless of whether there has been a DST switch or not.
Where possible, you are encouraged to use PT when referring to time, particularly in the lead-up to the clocks switching over. It makes things a lot less confusing for everybody.
Do Other States in PT Also Use The Same Initials?
All of the other states in the PT time zone will use exactly the same initials.
Do bear in mind that only California and Washington are the only states that are fully within the PT time zone. So, make sure that you are using the right time system if you are talking about any other state.
Do Other Time Zones in The US Act The Same Way?
Pacific Time is not the only time zone in the US that acts the same way. Each of the continental US time zones has exactly the same naming style.
- Eastern can be referred to as ET, EST, or EDT
- Mountain can be referred to as MT, MST, or EDT
- Central can be referred to as CT, CST, or CDT.
Note: Hawaii and parts of Alaska are in their own time zone. This is Hawaii-Alaska time. However, things get a bit more confusing there as there are times of the year when Hawaii is operating on standard time (it doesn’t operate on DST at any point) and the parts of Alaska are operating on DST. This means that there isn’t really a commonly agreed initialism that can be used. You will have to pay attention to whichever location is being discussed and at what time of year to really understand what the time is.
Thankfully, every other state in the US is completely standardized. You will only really ever see ET, MT, or CT being used when discussing time zones in the country.
Is The US The Only Country That Does This?
Mostly, yes. However, this is because the US is one of only a few countries that operate in a single time zone. This means that there is absolutely no need to differentiate between time zone names since every person in that country is operating at the same time.
Even during the switch to DST, the time zone name won’t change (nor will it really be referenced). For example, the standard time in France is CET. When the country switches to DST, then the time zone will become CEST. However, you will never really see either CET or CEST mentioned in France because it doesn’t really matter to the population. The only nearby countries that are in a different time zone would be Portugal and the UK.
PST, PDT, or PT are all used in reference to the time in Portland, Oregon.
You should use PT at any time of the year. PT will always refer to the local time. It is best to use this whenever possible as it is a lot less confusing for everybody.
PST will be used between November and March.
PDT will be used when DST kicks in. This means that you should use it between March and November.