The earth is spinning faster than usual and has had its shortest day ever

The earth is spinning faster than usual and has had its shortest day ever

The Earth is spinning faster and recently recorded its shortest day ever, scientists say. June 29, 2022 was 1.59 milliseconds shy of 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 accelerated, shortening some days by milliseconds. “Earth has started accelerating since 2016,” said Zotov, who works at Lomonosov University in Moscow and recently published a study on what might be causing the changes in the Earth’s rotation. “This year is spinning faster than 2021 and 2020.”

Zotov and his colleagues believe the fluctuations could be caused by Earth’s tides.

He says not every day is getting shorter, but if the trend continues, atomic time — the universal way time is measured on Earth — may need to change. Some scientists suggest introducing a negative leap second. “Since we can’t change the clock arrows attached to the Earth’s rotation, we adjust the atomic clock scale,” he said.

Unlike leap years, where an extra day is added, a negative leap second would mean the clock jumps a second.

Some engineers oppose the introduction of a leap second because it could lead to major and devastating engineering problems. Meta engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi, who is also a researcher, wrote a blog post for Meta about this, supporting industry-wide efforts to stop the future adoption of leap seconds.

“The handling of negative leap seconds has long been supported and companies like Meta often run simulations of this event,” they told CBS News. “However, this has never been verified at scale and will likely result in unpredictable and devastating outages around the world.”

Introduced in 1972, the concept “is of particular use to scientists and astronomers because it allows them to observe celestial bodies using UTC [Coordinated Universal Time] for most purposes,” they wrote in the blog post.

“Introducing new leap seconds is a risky practice that does more harm than good, and we believe it’s time to introduce new technology to replace them,” they write.

While positive leap seconds could cause a time jump, which could crash IT programs or even corrupt data, a negative leap second would be worse, they argue.

“The effects of a negative leap second have never been tested on a large scale; they could wreak havoc on software that relies on timers or schedulers,” they write. “Anyway, every leap second is a big source of pain for people who manage hardware infrastructures.”

The pair believe that one of many factors contributing to the Earth’s faster rotation could be the constant melting and refreezing of the ice caps on the world’s highest mountains.

“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 News. “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 melt and lead to increase angular velocity.”

Zotov and colleagues Christian Bizouard and Nikolay Sidorenkov will present their research at this month’s Asia Oceania Geosciences Society geosciences conference, which first reported on the Earth’s faster rotation and shorter days, according to Timeanddate.com.

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