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The earth is spinning faster than it should be, and no one is sure why

The earth is spinning faster than it should be, and no one is sure why
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If the days feel like they’re getting shorter with age, maybe you can’t imagine it.

On June 29, 2022, the Earth made a full revolution that lasted 1.59 milliseconds less than the average day length of 86,400 seconds, or 24 hours. While a 1.59 millisecond shortening may not seem like much, it is part of a larger and peculiar trend.

In fact, another new record was set on July 26, 2022 nearly set when Earth ended its day 1.50 milliseconds shorter than usual, as reported by The guard and the time tracking website time and date. Time and Date notes that the year 2020 had the highest number of short days since scientists began using atomic clocks for daily measurements in the 1960s. Scientists first noticed the trend in 2016.

While the length of an average day may vary slightly in the short term, long term day length has increased since the formation of the Earth-Moon system. That’s because, over time, gravity has moved energy from Earth — via the tides — to the Moon, making it a little farther from us. Because the two bodies are in tidal lock—meaning the moon’s rotation and revolution speeds are so equivalent that we only see one side of it at a time—physics dictate that Earth’s day must lengthen when the two bodies to remain in tidal lock as the moon moves farther away. Billions of years ago, the moon was much closer and Earth’s day length was much shorter.


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While scientists know that Earth’s days are getting shorter in the short-term, a definitive reason for this remains unclear — along with the impact this might have on the way we, as humans, keep track of time.

“Earth’s rotational speed is a complicated matter. It has to do with the exchange of angular momentum between the Earth and the atmosphere and the effects of the ocean and the effect of the moon,” says Judah Levine, a physicist in the Time and Frequency Division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. to Discover Magazine. “One cannot predict what will happen very far in the future.”

But Fred Watson, Australia’s astronomer at large, said ABC News in Australia that if nothing is done about it, “you will gradually throw the seasons out of the rhythm of the calendar”.

“When you start looking at the really basics, you realize that the Earth isn’t just a solid sphere that’s spinning,” Watson said. “It’s liquid on the inside, liquid on the outside, and it has an atmosphere, and all those things slosh around a little bit.”

Matt King of the University of Tasmania told ABC News Australia that the trend was “certainly odd”.

“Clearly something has changed, and in a way we haven’t seen since precise radio astronomy began in the 1970s,” King said.

Could it be related to extreme weather patterns? As reported by The guardNASA has reported that the Earth’s rotation can slow stronger winds in El Niño years and can slow down the rotation of the planet. Likewise, the melting of ice caps moves matter on Earth and can thus change the rate of rotation.

While this small loss of time has little impact on our daily lives, some scientists have called for the introduction of a negative “leap second,” which would subtract one second from a day, to keep the world on track for the atomic time system if the trend continues. Leap seconds have been added every few years since 1972. The last one was added in 2016.

“It’s entirely possible that a negative leap second will be needed if the Earth’s rotation rate continues to increase, but it’s too early to tell if that’s likely to happen,” said physicist Peter Whibberley of the UK’s National Physics Laboratory The Telegraph. “There are also international discussions taking place about the future of leap seconds, and it is also possible that the need for a negative leap second is driving the decision to end leap seconds for good.”

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