Difference Between Local Time and Solar Time (With Table)

Local Time vs Solar Time

Local time and solar time are both ways to understand time. Solar time was the traditional method of knowing the time, whereas local time evolved later on as the specifications of country borderlines came into play. 

Local time is the time that is based on the location of the area. This changes as one move from one place to another. Local time is a more standardized way of measuring time, whereas solar time is a local method to measure time.

Solar time is affected by location as well as the time of the year. The same time can be different according to the season it is being measured in, as the rotation of the Earth was an affecting factor. This is because the days are longer in summer and shorter in winter.

The primary difference between solar and local time is that local time is more reliable as it stays the same in the location, whereas solar time can differ.

Parameter of ComparisonLocal TImeSolar TIme
Basis of CalculationIt is purely based on the location in which the time is being seen.It is based on location as well as the time of the year.
ReliabilityIt is more reliable as one factor affects it.It is not as reliable as local time as there can be differences in time over the year.
Comparison facilitationLocal time easily facilitates the comparison of time between countries.The solar time differs and cannot be used as a measure to compare time between countries.
ApplicationIt is a widely used means to measure time.It is not as widely used as Local TIme.
IntroductionIt was introduced on November 18, 1883.It was a widely used method before the introduction of local time and was applied in the middle of the 2nd millennium BC.
MeasurementIt is measured using clocks that are set according to time zones.It is measured using sundial or other traditional methods.


What is Local Time?

The local time was introduced on November 18, 1883, by railroads in Canada and the U.S., Sir Sandford Fleming proposed this system of measuring time. Before this, time measurement was based on more natural means like solar time, which caused a lot of confusion. It was devised from the solar time to overcome the variation caused by the later in the measurement of time.

Local time became a necessity to ensure precision and facilitate comparison between different locations. It is only affected by one factor that is location.

It was introduced to ensure smooth operations of railways and forecasting of weather. The local time of every area is called the time zone. Across the globe, there are more than 24 time zones. Sir Fleming recommended having 24 time zones, which was based on one hour differences.

But some timezones only have a 30 or 45 minute difference, which caused these time zones to increase. This integrated the world, unlike solar time, which was more of a local thing. Times zones are referred to as ahead or behind of the Coordinated Universal Time.

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UTC is the standard time and is not a time zone. It acts as a basis for measuring the differences in time according to locations. The world’s standard time is GMT, which stands for Greenwich Mean Time.

Local Time 1
Local Time

What is Solar Time?

Solar time is the method of measuring time based on the position of the sun. Such clocks were known as sundials. As it is already known that due to Earth’s rotation, there are differences in day and night over the globe, solar time was not able to make for this difference.

It was a subjective method of measuring time as it was based on the way the person measuring time observed the sun. A pole was placed in the ground and based on the shadow that it cast, the time was determined. This method of measuring time could not be used in the night, which made it inefficient.

Clepsydras were used to measure solar time, which was a name for water clocks. Over the year, there were differences in the time measured using solar time as the days were longer in summer and shorter in winter.

This resulted in confusion and was more like a local way of measuring time. The usage of solar time was eradicated because of the improvement in global connections and a need for a more standardized method of measuring time.

Solar Time
Solar Time

Main Differences Between Local Time and Solar Time

  1. Both local and solar time is based on location, but solar time is also affected by the time of the year, which causes error in measurement.
  2. The local time can facilitate comparison, whereas solar time cannot.
  3. Local time is a more reliable method of measuring time as it is more precise, whereas solar time causes measurement differences due to change in days.
  4. The local time was introduced way later, and solar time was commonly relied upon before that time.
  5. The local time is measured using the clocks set according to the time zone of each location. This is based on the meridian that the location chooses, which is also called the line of longitude. Whereas solar time is measured using a sundial, which can be created quickly and requires daytime for measurement.



Even though both local time and solar time use similar parameters, local time is more reliable as it measures time with precision and helps in facilitating comparison of time over geographical locations. It cannot be said that one method is inferior to the other since sundials were helpful in history. Still, technological advancements forced the world to develop a better means of measuring time.

Local time derives its roots from solar time but is a better way of measurement of time as it enables coordination of workflow across the globe. It also is a standard way of measuring time across countries and, thus, does not cause any confusion or errors.


Word Cloud for Difference Between Local Time and Solar Time

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Local Time and Solar Time. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

Difference Between Local time and solar time
Word Cloud for Local Time and Solar Time



  1. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsami.6b04104
  2. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2006JA011948
  3. https://www.osapublishing.org/abstract.cfm?uri=ao-21-7-1191