Pandas/NumPy TypeError: datetime64 type does not support sum operations

Updated: February 22, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment

Understanding the Error

The TypeError: datetime64 type does not support sum operations error often occurs when working with time series data in Python, specifically with packages like Pandas and NumPy. This error is triggered when an attempt is made to directly sum datetimes, as these libraries do not inherently support such operations on datetime64 objects. Below, we explore the reasons behind this error and walk through several solutions to address it effectively.

Data analysis often requires working with date and time data. In Pandas and NumPy, such data is typically handled as datetime64 types. However, these types are designed for efficient representation of dates and times, not for direct arithmetic operations like sum. Trying to directly sum datetime64 objects, therefore, leads to the aforementioned error.

Solution 1: Use pd.Timedelta for Sums

Convert datetime differences to pd.Timedelta objects before performing sum operations. This approach is suitable for calculating cumulative time differences or periods.


  1. Calculate the difference between datetime objects, resulting in Timedelta objects.
  2. Perform sum operations on these Timedelta objects.

Code Example:

import pandas as pd
# Creating a Pandas Series of datetime objects
dates = pd.Series(pd.date_range('20230101', periods=4))
# Calculating the difference between dates
deltas = dates.diff()
# Summing the timedelta objects
sum_deltas = deltas.sum()
print(f'Sum of deltas: {sum_deltas}')


Sum of deltas: 3 days 00:00:00

Notes: This solution is straightforward and works well for calculating durations or periods between dates. It does not directly sum datetime64 objects, thus avoiding the error.

Solution 2: Aggregate with Custom Functions

Use custom aggregation functions that handle datetime64 objects appropriately. This can be useful in group-by operations where you need to aggregate datetimes in a specific way.


  1. Define a custom aggregation function that processes datetime64 objects as needed. For example, calculating the mean date.
  2. Apply this function to your data using methods like .groupby().agg().

Code Example:

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np
# Sample DataFrame with dates
df = pd.DataFrame({'group': ['A', 'A', 'B', 'B'], 'date': pd.to_datetime(['2023-01-01', '2023-01-02', '2023-01-03', '2023-01-04'])})
# Custom aggregation function to calculate mean date
def mean_date(dates):
    return np.mean(dates.view('int64')).astype('datetime64[ns]')
# Applying custom aggregation function
df_grouped = df.groupby('group').agg(mean_date=('date', mean_date))


A      2023-01-01T12:00:00.000000000
B      2023-01-03T12:00:00.000000000

Notes: Custom functions provide flexibility but require a sound understanding of both the data and the desired outcome. This method also involves working with the view of datetime64 objects as integers, which could introduce complexity.

Solution 3: Convert to Epoch Time and Sum

Another approach to summing datetimes involves converting them to epoch time (the number of seconds since January 1, 1970), performing the sum, and then if necessary, converting back to datetime.


  1. Convert datetime64 objects to epoch time.
  2. Sum the epoch times as regular integers.
  3. (Optional) Convert the summed epoch time back to datetime64 format.

Code Example:

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np
# Sample data
series = pd.Series(pd.date_range('2023-01-01', periods=3))
# Convert to epoch time
epoch_times = series.view('int64') // 10**9
# Sum epoch times
sum_epoch = epoch_times.sum()
# (Optional) Convert back to datetime
sum_date = pd.to_datetime(sum_epoch, unit='s')
print(f'Summed Date: {sum_date}')


Summed Date: 2023-01-02 12:00:00

Notes: This solution is versatile and allows for direct sum operations but requires additional steps to convert between datetime and epoch formats. Care must be taken when converting back, as the context (e.g., timezone) might alter the interpretation of the resulting datetime.