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Why Was UTC Created When There Was GMT?


If you study time zones, you might be confused with UTC and GMT. Sometimes, people interchanged the two because they think that they are similar when in fact, these two are different. UTC stands for Coordinated Universal Time, a time standard and a basis for many time zones. On the other hand, GMT refers to Greenwich Mean Time, which is a specific time zone. UTC and GMT share the same current time in practice; however, they differ in some ways. If they share the same current time, why was UTC created when there was GMT?


If you are having confusion between Coordinated Universal Time and Greenwich Mean Time, you only need to remember this thing:

UTC is not a time zone, while GMT is.

As stated earlier, Coordinated Universal Time is a time standard that serves as the basis for civil time and time zones worldwide. Meaning, there is no specific country or territory that officially uses UTC as a local time. Unlike UTC, GMT is a time zone that is formally used in several European and African countries. It can be displayed using both the 24-hour format or the 12-hour format. When it comes to Daylight Saving Time, neither the UTC nor GMT follows the twice-a-year tradition, although some GMT countries switch to different time zones during their DST period.

Why Was UTC Created?

You may be asking why is there UTC? What is its purpose?

Having a universal time was first conceived in the late 1800s. This is because there is a need for coordinating economic activity in terms of the rail and shipping lines that connect the world. Meaning, standard timetables were necessary. There is a need for a universal time because the time of day was set by whatever the clocks in a particular location were. However, local times could differ from one another by seconds or even minutes.

In 1884, 41 delegates from 25 countries picked the prime meridian, the zero point for the longitude line that passes through Greenwich, England. During this time, the time standard against which clocks were set became known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Although there was GMT, a committee at the United Nations officially adopted UTC as a standard. This is because it is more accurate than GMT for setting clocks.

Coordinated Universal Time and Greenwich Mean Time is used interchangeably; that’s why knowing their difference is a must, especially when dealing with time. They might be confusing, but all you need to remember is that UTC is the current standard time used as a reference for other time zones.

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