When the days seem to be getting shorter; they are and have been since the summer solstice in June. But the Earth recently recorded its shortest day for a very different and unusual reason – the Earth is spinning faster. Scientists find the development puzzling, although they have some theories about why it’s happening and what impact it might have on our lives.
June 29, 2022 was 1.59 milliseconds shorter than the average day, scientist Leonid Zotov told CBS News. The normal length of a day is 24 hours or 86,400 seconds. But in recent years, the Earth’s rotation has increased, shortening some days by milliseconds. “Earth has started to accelerate since 2016,” said Zotov, who published a study last March about what might be causing the changes in the Earth’s rotation. “This year is spinning faster than 2021 and 2020.”
This increased rotation doesn’t shorten every day—just every now and then. But if this continues, the main method of measuring time on Earth – a universal, highly precise method known as atomic time – may have to change. A negative leap second may need to be added, where clocks would simply skip a second. “Since we can’t change the clock arrows attached to the Earth’s rotation, we adjust the scale of the atomic clock,” Zotov said.
But not all scientists are in favor of the negative leap second. In fact, meta-engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi recently wrote a blog post criticizing the idea. They said that this could cause serious disruptions in technology, such as B. Data Corruption. The concept was never tested.
Some scientists theorize the Earth’s tides. Others believe that the constant melting and refreezing of the polar ice caps is causing the Earth’s rotation to speed up and slow down.
“It’s all about the law of conservation of momentum that applies to our planet Earth. Every atom on the planet contributes to the momentum of Earth’s angular velocity based on distance from Earth’s axis of rotation,” Obleukhov and Byagowi told CBS. “Once things are moving, the angular velocity of the earth can vary.”
“This phenomenon can be visualized simply by thinking of a spinning figure skater controlling angular velocity by controlling his arms and hands,” they said. “As they spread their arms, the angular velocity decreases, which preserves the skater’s momentum. Once the skater tucks their arms back in, the angular velocity increases. The same is happening here at this moment due to rising temperatures on Earth. Ice caps are melting, causing angular velocity to increase.”
In 2020, the planet experienced 28 of its shortest days in the last 50 years. The United Nations-affiliated International Telecommunication Union has begun adding leap seconds on occasion in June or December. The first leap second was added in 1972, and 26 have been added since then.
According to Ars Technica, the clock ticks from 23:59:59 through 23:59:60 to 00:00:00 during a leap second. The mean “leap second” has caused technical problems in the past: A leap second added in 2012 caused crashes on Reddit, Gawker and the Australian airline Qantas. In 2017, a leap second brought Cloudflare to a halt.