Something is making the Earth spin faster and days shorter

In recent years, it has felt more nebulous than ever. You are forgiven for thinking that the days are going by faster and faster. According to scientists, this perspective is not wrong. On June 29, midnight came 1.59 milliseconds earlier than expected. It was the shortest day in over half a century, at least since scientists began tracking the pace of Earth’s rotation in the 1960s.

That wasn’t an isolated case either. In 2020, the planet experienced what was then 28 shortest days in recorded history. And just last week, on July 26, the day lasted 1.5 milliseconds less than usual. “Earth has started accelerating since 2016,” said Leonid Zotov, a researcher at Moscow’s Lomonosov State University . “This year is spinning faster than 2021 and 2020.”

Since the formation of the earth, the days have become much longer. As notes that about 1.4 billion years ago, one rotation of the earth took less than 19 hours. Days have lengthened by an average of about 1/74,000th of a second each year. But the planet’s rotation can fluctuate from day to day.

Scientists believe there are a number of factors that can affect the Earth’s rotation, including earthquakes, stronger winds, melting and refreezing ice caps, the moon and climate. Some have suggested that the so-called “Chandler wobble” might also have an impact on rotation. This phenomenon is a “small, erratic deviation of the Earth’s rotational points relative to the solid Earth,” it says brings it.

Since 1972, to account for fluctuations in the length of the day, there have been occasional leap seconds – one second in addition to Coordinated Universal Time. Should the current trend of shorter days continue, there is a chance that a negative leap second will be needed to align the clocks with the planet’s rotation. As such, UTC would skip a second.

Leap seconds wreak havoc even on ultra-precise systems. Just last week, , which have caused outages on Reddit and Cloudflare for the past decade. A negative leap second could lead to even more chaos.

“As the Earth’s rotation pattern changes, it’s very likely that we’ll get a negative leap second at some point in the future,” said meta-engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi. “The effect of a negative leap second has never been tested on a large scale; it could wreak havoc on software that relies on timers or schedulers.”

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