Greenwich Mean Time [GMT]

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Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. GMT was formerly used as the international civil time standard, now superseded in that function by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Today GMT is considered equivalent to UTC for UK civil purposes (but this is not formalized) and for navigation is considered equivalent to UT1 (the modern form of mean solar time at 0° longitude); these two meanings can differ by up to 0.9 s. Consequently, the term GMT should not be used for precise purposes.

Because of Earth’s uneven speed in its elliptical orbit and its axial tilt, noon (12:00:00) GMT is rarely the exact moment the sun crosses the Greenwich meridian and reaches its highest point in the sky there. This event may occur up to 16 minutes before or after noon GMT, a discrepancy calculated by the equation of time. Noon GMT is the annual average (i.e., “mean”) moment of this event, which accounts for the word “mean” in “Greenwich Mean Time”.

Originally, astronomers considered a GMT day to start at noon while for almost everyone else it started at midnight. To avoid confusion, the name Universal Time was introduced to denote GMT as counted from midnight. Astronomers preferred the old convention to simplify their observational data, so that each night was logged under a single calendar date. Today Universal Time usually refers to UTC or UT1

The term “GMT” is especially used by bodies connected with the United Kingdom, such as the BBC World Service, the Royal Navy, the Met Office and others particularly in Arab countries, such as the Middle East Broadcasting Centre and OSN. It is a term commonly used in the United Kingdom and countries of the Commonwealth, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Malaysia; and in many other countries of the eastern hemisphere. In some countries (Britain for example) Greenwich Mean Time is the legal time in the winter and the population uses the term.

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