Saturday, 23 January, 2021


The Earth Is Spinning Faster Than It Has in 50 Years

Earth is spinning faster than it has for 50 years (and we might have to ‘subtract’ a second) Why is Earth spinning faster than it has in 50 years?
Kristine Garrett | 11 January, 2021, 11:58

The Daily Mail reported scientists as saying that the rotation of the home planet is faster than normal as a result of which a day on earth is now shorter than the usual 24 hours, albeit slightly so.

However, seeing as the Earth has been consistently been slowing rather than speeding up its spin, there hasn't been a need to add a negative leap second before. Atomic clocks measure Earth's spin relative to a distant astronomical object, typically a fixed star. Timekeepers at the Paris-based IERS have added leap seconds to 27 days since the 1970s, with the most recent on December 31, 2016.

"The Earth is spinning faster now than at any time in the last 50 years", physicist Peter Whibberley of the UK's National Physics Laboratory told The Telegraph. For the first time, we have a negative leap second, meaning we have to subtract one.

While that's not a lot of time at all, scientists are watching the situation closely and might call for a "negative leap second", where official timeclocks would be reset by removing a full second.

There are 24 hours in a day, 60 minutes in an hour, and 60 seconds in a minute.

Now the Earth is moving faster, and scientists say that if this continues, negative jump seconds may be required, and our clocks will skip a second to keep up with the planet.

"There are also worldwide discussions taking place about the future of leap seconds, and it's also possible that the need for a negative leap second might push the decision towards ending leap seconds for good", he said.

While when we think of a day we quickly think of 24 hours, the actual duration of an orbit around the Earth's axis differs slightly each day, according to data from the IERS. While a year ago felt never-ending for so many since the world went into lockdown last March due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 actually had the shortest days on record, according to TimeandDate.com. For example, Sunday lasted only 23 hours 59 minutes and 59.9998927 seconds. But the large number of speedy days in 2020 could be a sign that Earth's rotation is accelerating overall, according to TimeAndDate.com.

While this news should not be unnerving, as different conditions such as the atmospheric pressure, winds, and ocean current may cause the Earth to rotate at a different pace, it can be problematic for timekeepers who use the atomic clocks to adjust the Coordinated Universal Time - the benchmark time for everyone else. Yet in 2020 there were 28 separate occasions in which a solar day occurred from anywhere between 1.0516 milliseconds and 1.4602 milliseconds less than that period.

Apparently, as per the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), scientists have been adding these leap seconds around every year-and-a-half since 1972.

Some of the web's most popular sites were laid low on July 1, 2012 after the world's timekeepers added an extra second to the day.

The latest timepieces have now shown the 28 fastest days on record all took place a year ago. This implies that the next potential date for a leap second is June 20, 2021.

Keeping atomic time in sync with solar time is important to keep satellites and other communications equipment in sync.

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