PHP: Convert a Geolocation (Latitude / Longitude Coordinates) to a Timezone identifier

Part of a PHP project I’m working contains a list of sites/buildings. For each site/building we monitor some data, for example its energy usage.

We decided that we wanted to generate a daily/weekly/monthly reports of the data, by aggregating the datapoints. As our sites/buildings are spread across the globe – and thus timezones – we can’t simply select data between 00:00:00 UTC and 23:59:59 UTC but have to use its geographical location’s “day window” to do our calculations.

Unfortunately we don’t didn’t store the timezone for a site/building, but since we do keep track of its geographical location – using a WGS84 latitude-longitude pair – it should be possible to derive its timezone, right?

Right! On StackOverflow I found this little snippet that does the job:

function get_nearest_timezone($cur_lat, $cur_long, $country_code = '') {
    $timezone_ids = ($country_code) ? DateTimeZone::listIdentifiers(DateTimeZone::PER_COUNTRY, $country_code)
                                    : DateTimeZone::listIdentifiers();

    if($timezone_ids && is_array($timezone_ids) && isset($timezone_ids[0])) {

        $time_zone = '';
        $tz_distance = 0;

        //only one identifier?
        if (count($timezone_ids) == 1) {
            $time_zone = $timezone_ids[0];
        } else {

            foreach($timezone_ids as $timezone_id) {
                $timezone = new DateTimeZone($timezone_id);
                $location = $timezone->getLocation();
                $tz_lat   = $location['latitude'];
                $tz_long  = $location['longitude'];

                $theta    = $cur_long - $tz_long;
                $distance = (sin(deg2rad($cur_lat)) * sin(deg2rad($tz_lat))) 
                + (cos(deg2rad($cur_lat)) * cos(deg2rad($tz_lat)) * cos(deg2rad($theta)));
                $distance = acos($distance);
                $distance = abs(rad2deg($distance));
                // echo '<br />'.$timezone_id.' '.$distance; 

                if (!$time_zone || $tz_distance > $distance) {
                    $time_zone   = $timezone_id;
                    $tz_distance = $distance;

        return  $time_zone;
    return 'unknown';

Usage is as follows:

// Timezone for one NY coordinate
echo get_nearest_timezone(40.772222,-74.164581);
// ~> America/New_York

// Timezone for one Belgian coordinate
echo get_nearest_timezone(51.0162167, 3.7338451);
// ~> Europe/Brussels

// More faster and accurate if you can pass the country code 
echo get_nearest_timezone(40.772222, -74.164581, 'US');
// ~> America/New_York

With this timezone identifier now being available, we can include it in our queries and generate our daily/weekly/monthly reports 🙂

🍻 Here’s to copying-and-pasting from StackOverflow!

On a related note: Falsehoods programmers believe about time and time zones is worth a read, especially if you’ve already dealt with time and timezones.

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