Planet Earth has been spinning faster lately
Have you ever had some news right out of the blue that left you in a bit of a spin?
Well here’s some news for today – Earth has been spinning faster lately, and a few seconds of our daily time may be slipping out of our hands.
Not to worry – this doesn’t mean we have to get ourselves worked up, but if the rotation of the Earth continues to quicken, we will need a negative leap second at some point. If this occurs, to keep up with the hurrying earth spinning, our clocks will miss a second. (1)
Why Is The Earth Spinning Faster?
This past year, 2020, saw some of the shortest days ever recorded. July 5, 2005, was the shortest day since 1973, when the Earth’s rotation took less than 86,400 seconds, 1,0516 milliseconds.
But the world beat the record no less than 28 times in the middle of 2020. The shortest day of all happened on July 19, when the planet completed its rotation in less than 86,400 seconds, at 1,4602 milliseconds. (1)
Scientists monitoring the Earth’s rotational speed expect the trend of having shorter days to follow us into 2021, predicted to be the shortest in decades. (1)
Having said this, planetary scientists are not yet worried. Through years of study, they know that there are many influences, including the pull of the moon, snowfall levels, and mountain erosion, that all influence our planetary spin. The speed of the Earth’s rotation also varies constantly because of the complex motion of its molten core, oceans, and atmosphere.
To top it off, as the snow caps and high-altitude snows continue to melt, global warming is continually always in question. (2)
How Do Scientists Answer Earth Spinning Questions?
The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service conducts official length of day measurements (IERS).
IERS scientists calculate the exact speed of the Earth’s rotation and determine the true length of a day by calculating the precise moments a fixed star moves every day at a certain position in the sky. This calculation is expressed as a form of solar time, Universal Time (UT1),
UT1 is then compared to the highly accurate time scale, International Atomic Time (TAI), which incorporates the performance of some 200 atomic clocks held in laboratories around the world.
The true length of a day is represented over 24 hours by the divergence of UT1 from TAI. ( 2)
The Passage Of Time Goes So Quickly
Atomic clock manufacturing began several decades ago, allowing scientists to track the passage of time in incredibly small amounts, which in turn enabled the duration of a given day to be measured down to a millisecond.
Since these measurements started, scientists have also found that the planet was decelerating it’s spin very slowly (compensated now and then by the addition of a leap second) until this past year, when it began spinning faster, so much so that some in the field have begun to wonder whether this year will involve an exceptional suggestion- a negative leap negative second!
So, it’s not the planetary scientist’s, but more the computer scientists that are most concerned, about these recent, unexpected mini- headlong flights from our globe,
A lot of modern technology is focused on what they define as “true time.” Introducing a negative leap second might lead to issues, so some are proposing changing the clocks of the world from solar time to atomic time. If the rotation of our planet gets too far out of sync with the super-steady beat of atomic clocks it’s always a possibility to use a positive or negative leap second to get them back into line. (1)
World timekeepers are debating whether to delete a second from time — (negative leap second) — to account for the change and bring time passage back into line with the rotation of the Earth. Whatever happens, it seems the experts have got us covered, so we won’t be a few seconds late, for anything! (2)
So when the sun rises tomorrow, we still don’t need to worry or start clinging to someone or something to avoid getting dizzy, but it may be the time to start dreaming about a new watch!
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