Time zones in the US can get a little bit confusing. There are several of them, and they all have a variety of names. Some of them can be very similar. So, what is the difference between the time zone CT, CDT, and CST? Is there any difference?
The letters CT, CDT, and CST are all used to refer to Central Time. The time of year will determine which one is used. CST is standard time, CDT is daylight saving, and CT can be used to refer to both.
We know this may seem a bit confusing, so let’s break it down, bit by bit.
What Is Central Standard Time (CST)?
The base time zone for any state that falls within the Central Time Zone region is known as Central Standard Time, or CST for short. This is the time in operation from the start of November to the middle of March. If we got rid of Daylight Saving Time tomorrow, then these states would automatically default to CST.
CST is UTC-6.
What Is Central Daylight Time (CDT)?
During the warmer months of the year, all the states in the central time zone switch to UTC-5. This adds an extra hour of daylight per day, which is great for working!
When this happens, CST will switch to CDT.
The same will apply to any time zone in the United States. If you ever spot a D in the name of the time zone, then you know that the time is being given in Daylight Saving Time.
You may want to note that this time zone could disappear altogether. While Arizona and Hawaii are the only two US states that do not use DST, the central government is planning to eradicate it across the board. We wouldn’t be surprised if the whole idea of DST was ditched in the US very soon.
What Is Central Time? (CT)?
This brings us to CT. This is the time zone name that you will see used the most. The CT time zone is floating. This means that it has no fixed UTC offset.
When you see CT, it can refer to either CST or CDT.
This is done to make the switching of time zones during DST a lot less confusing. If somebody looks at the CT, then they know that whatever time is given will be the local time for the area. There is no need to work out whether they need to add or subtract an hour due to Daylight Saving Time.
If you are ever giving the time to somebody in the Central Time Zone, then we always recommend that you give it to them in CT. It is a lot easier to understand. If you look at TV schedules, for instance, then the times will always be quoted in CT.
What States Are In The Central Time Zone?
The following states are in the Central Time Zone:
Due to the way time zone lines work, the following states are only partially in the Central Time Zone. All of these will also have a second time zone:
- Texas (Also Mountain Time)
- Tennessee (Also Eastern Time)
- Florida (Eastern)
- Indiana (Eastern)
- Kansas (Mountain)
- North Dakota (Mountain)
- South Dakota (Mountain)
- Michigan (Eastern)
- Kentucky (Eastern)
- Nebraska (Mountain)
Time zone lines are not completely straight. Well, they aren’t when used in a country. They tend to follow the boundaries of populations, state lines, etc. So, if you look at each one of these states, you will likely notice that the area where CT starts and ends is different. This is because Congress has drawn the time zone borders to avoid major population hubs.
If you are in one of the states with multiple time zones, then there will be road signs that tell you where the time zone boundary is. Most of the time zone switches will be a good distance away from where most people are living. This is why you will see only a tiny portion of Florida in Central Time. That state is very well-populated, and only the smallest amount of the state could be squeezed into CT without causing too many issues.
Do Other Countries Use Central Time?
Yes. The US isn’t the only country to run on central time. The following also do:
- Canada (only parts of it)
- Mexico (only a few states)
- Costa Rica
- El Salvador
It is important to remember that not all of these places will use the same abbreviations. For example, it is very rare for countries outside the use the CT abbreviation. You may also find that many of these countries do not use Daylight Saving Time at all. This means that they are running on CST throughout the year.
Because of this, you may find that the CT in one country is going to be completely different from the CT in another country. Until every country is on DST, or every country ditches the idea, then this cannot be avoided.
The Other Time Zones In The US
We figured we would wrap up by letting you know the initials for the other time zones in the continental US. This should show you that the time zones follow roughly the same format as Central Time:
- Pacific Time (PST, PDT, or PT) – UTC-8
- Mountain Time (MST, MDT, or MT) – UTC-7
- Eastern Time (EST, EDT, or ET) – UTC-5
CT, CDT, and CST are all names that can be used to refer to the time in the Central Time Zone in the US. The name used will depend on the time of year. CT will be used year-round, while CST from November to March, and CDT from March to November.
To avoid confusion, it is likely that you will only ever see the CT initials being used. This can be used whether the Central Time Zone is in the midst of daylight saving or not. It will always refer to the current local time.