Earth is whipping round faster than it has in a half-century

Rodiano Bonacci
Gennaio 11, 2021

By doing that, the atomic time and the astronomical time get back in time. Yet this shorter Earth rotation time has been closely watched by the International Earth Rotation Reference Systems (IERS) Service, more than just a fun drink.

Atomic clocks keep ultra-precise records of day length and they have been doing so since the 1960s.

"Certainly, the Earth is spinning faster now than at any time in the past 50 years", Peter Weberley, senior researcher in the Time and Frequency Group at the National Physical Laboratory, told The Telegraph.

It is known that the rotation time on the Earth's axis varies slightly due to atmospheric pressure, wind, ocean currents and the motion of the center of our planet, but it is hard for worldwide time controllers to use ultra-precise atomic clocks to measure the global time that each person sets his clocks.

So as Whibberley also mentioned above for the time ever scientists are thinking about a "negative leap second" from the astronomical time.

Leap seconds refer to adjustment of time, akin to leap years.

"It is very likely that a negative second jump will be required if the Earth's rotation rate increases, but it is too early to determine whether this is likely to happen", Wibberley said.

Earth's rotation is faster than normal and, as a result, the length of a day is now ever-so-slightly shorter than the regulation 24 hours.

Scientists recorded 28 short days from 1960 to 2020. For example, Sunday lasted only 23 hours 59 minutes and 59.9998927 seconds.

There is fortunately no need to panic as Earth's rotation constantly varies. According to Time and Date, Earth broke the previous record for shortest astronomical day, set in 2005, 28 times.

Some countries want to move to atomic time completely, and abolish leap second corrections, but the United Kingdom is opposed to the move because it would sever the link with solar time forever.

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. For instance, 19 July 2020 fell 1.4602 milliseconds short of a full 24 hours. As pointed out by Daily Mail, since the 1970s, 27 leap seconds have been added to the time to keep atomic time lined up with solar time. It would amount to an accumulated lag of about 19 milliseconds on the atomic clocks by year-end, they suggested.

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.

Scientists are also studying whether global warming could be impacting the earth's spin, with the disappearance of high-altitude snow and snow-caps. Published in Science Advances, it claimed that the melting of glaciers is partly responsible for the planet to spin faster on its axis.

But scientists worry it could actually have a lasting impact if left unattended to, seeing as satellites and communications equipment need to align the true time with the solar time in order to maintain precision.

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