On July 29, the Earth broke its record for the shortest day by completing a full rotation in 1.59 milliseconds less than its standard 24-hour rotation.
According to Independent, the planet has recently increased its speed. In 2020, Earth experienced its shortest month on record since the 1960s. On July 19 of that year, the shortest time ever was measured. That was 1.47 milliseconds shorter than a typical 24-hour day.
The following year, the planet continued to spin at a generally accelerated rate, but it did not break any records. However, according to Interesting Engineering (IE), a 50-year phase of shorter days could begin right now.
The cause of the different speed of rotation of the Earth is still unknown. But scientists think it could be due to processes in the inner or outer layers of the core, oceans, tides or even climate change.
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Some researchers also believe it may be related to the movement of the Earth’s geographic poles across its surface, known as the “Chandler Oscillation”. In simpler terms, it resembles the quiver you see when a spinning top begins to gain momentum or slows down, according to scientists Leonid Zotov, Christian Bizouard and Nikolay Sidorenkov.
According to Independentif the Earth continues to spin at an increasing speed, this could lead to the introduction of negative leap seconds, in an effort to keep the speed at which the Earth orbits the Sun consistent with the measurement of atomic clocks.
However, the negative leap second would have potentially confusing consequences for smartphones, computers and communication systems. Citing a Meta blog, the outlet reported that the leap second “primarily benefits scientists and astronomers” but is a “risky practice that does more harm than good.”
Indeed, the clock goes from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60 before returning to 00:00:00. A time jump like this can therefore crash programs and corrupt data due to timestamps on data storage.
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Meta also said that if a negative leap second occurs, the clock will jump from 23:59:58 to 00:00:00, and this could have a “devastating effect” on software relying on timers and schedulers. According THAT’S TO SAYto solve this problem, international timekeepers may need to add a negative leap second – a “falling second”.
Notably, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time, has already been updated with a leap second 27 times.