Earth spinning faster than ever could cause chaos for timekeeping

Scientists have shown that the world is spinning faster than ever before.

Although it may sound alarming, experts insist that it is not something to be worried about. The impact on a year will be much less than a second.

Earth rotates around its axes approximately every 24 hours, or 86.400 seconds. Although it is a time frame we have come to expect, the truth is that the length of each day is not the same because of the world’s complex shape and interior.

Credit: J Marshall – Tribaleye Images/Alamy Stock Photo

A few hundred million years back, an Earth day was just 22 hours long. If you go back billions of years, it was closer to 19 hours. It is expected that the Earth will travel longer in the millions of years ahead, even though it appears to be moving faster than it does now.

Scientists still don’t know why Earth’s orbits are getting faster, but some believe it may be due to the phenomenon known as the “Chandler wobble”.

Leonid Zotov, a scientist, explained to timeanddate.com the Chandler wobble is a name for a small and irregular movement of Earth’s geographical poles across its surface. It disappeared from 2017 to 2020 which is very strange, he said, explaining why the days seemed slightly faster.

Climate change could also be a reason.

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When glaciers melt, the Earth changes it’s shape. It becomes flattered at the poles and swollen at the equator.

Judah Levine is a professor at Colorado-Boulder and a time expert at National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST). He believes that the time change could be due to Earth’s atmosphere.

Inverse spoke to him and said that one possibility is the exchanged momentum between the Earth’s atmosphere.

“The sum of these two is a constant. This means that if the atmosphere slows, then the Earth speed up.” Conversely, if the atmosphere speeds up, the Earth slows.

What does this all mean for timekeeping?

We are very used to adding one extra day to our leap years to keep us in tune with the Earth’s rotation around the Sun.

With the planet moving faster, it may be necessary to either take some time off or add a “negative leap second”.

Levine added, “If you had asked about the negative leap second five year ago, I would not have said, ‘Never’.”

“But the Earth has been surprisingly speeding up over the past year or so. If this speed-up continues, we may need a negative leap second within seven years.

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