New measurements: Earth will rotate around its fastest axis in decades

Eloise Marshall
January 11, 2021

Simply put, time is passing quicker now than at any point in the last half-century and since 2020, a full day has been taking less than the normal 24 hours.

Scientists said that the Earth is spinning faster than it has in the last five decades which causes the day to be slightly shorter than 24 hours.

It's not abnormal to see Earth days run a bit longer or shorter than average, thanks to the activity of the planet's molten core, oceans, and atmosphere.

So far those changes have included the addition of a "leap second" at the end of June or December, corresponding to astronomical time atomic time. However, no leap seconds have been added since 2016 and if this year turns out to be shorter than 2020, scientists may even subtract a second.

"As soon as the difference between astronomical time and UTC becomes too large, a leap second is added", explains Dierikx, who then programs such a second in atomic clocks with his colleagues.

The debate about leap seconds comes because much of modern technology is now set up around what they call "true time" (which still works on the assumption that every minute always lasts 60 seconds).

Officially, it is the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) that calculates the length of a day.

However, scientists are now contemplating adding a "negative leap second" to 2021's timekeeping, as a day is now slightly shorter than 24 hours.

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However, in the course of 2021, atomic clocks are expected to accumulate a lag of about 19 milliseconds.

"It is certainly correct that the Earth is spinning faster now than at any time in the last 50 years", National Physical Laboratory senior research scientist Peter Whibberley explained. "However, in every field where exact time is needed (astronomy, navigation, spaceflight, but also computer networks for stock markets or energy supply, and much more) this second is of great importance", Dick said.

Thus it seems they are talking about deleting a second so that the passage of time and the Earth's rotation can be kept in sync. The reason for this has to do with the surprising number of short days experienced a year ago, the result of our planet's spin accelerating ever so slightly.

Working on the assumption that every minute always lasts 60 seconds they go haywire when, during a leap-second insertion, they find themselves in a situation they did not expect. As Time and Date reports, 2020 had the 28 shortest days since 1960. In 2020, that record was broken 28 times, Timeanddate.com reports. The Moon continues to recede by about 3.8 centimeters per year, which slows the rotation of the Earth and thus lengthens the day. Though the co-authors acknowledged that Earth's rotation equating to 24 hours isn't always flawless.

However, as Earth has been consistently slowing and not accelerating its spin, there has never before been a need to add a negative leap second.

Global debates are also taking place about the future of the Second Jump leaks, and it is also possible that the need for a Second Jump reversal could lead to a decision to end the Second Jump forever.

But scientists worry it could actually have a lasting impact if left unattended to, seeing as satellites and communications equipment need to align the true time with the solar time in order to maintain precision.

In general, leap seconds have their advantages and disadvantages. As glaciers melt, mass redistribution is causing the planet to shift and spin faster on its axis.

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