Scientists consider slashing a leap second from time as Earth spins at its fastest in half a century
Timekeepers around the world are debating whether to add a 'negative leap second' to time, in a would-be historical first.
Scientists have now revealed that that Earth is rotating faster than normal and as a result, the length of each day has become slightly shorter than 24 hours. Timekeepers around the world are reportedly debating whether to delete a second from time to account for the change and bring back precision to the timeline with respect to the rotation of the Earth. As per the report, the addition of the 'negative leap second' has never been done before.
However, a total of 27 leap seconds have been added since the 1970s in order to keep atomic time in line with solar time. The seconds have been added because, for years now, the Earth has taken slightly longer than 25hours to complete a rotation. However, since last year, the planet has been taking slightly less tine.
Timekeepers have found that for the last 50 years, Earth has taken a fraction less than the whole 24 hours to complete a rotation along its own axis. However, in the middle of 2020, the trend suddenly saw a reverse and days started getting shorter more regularly. For instance, 19 July 2020 fell 1.4602 milliseconds short of a full 24 hours. This record has since been broken 28 times in the last year alone, according to the report, and days are now passing 0.5 seconds short of 24 hours. To keep up, timekeepers at the Paris-based IERS have added leap seconds to 27 days since 1970s.
A 2015 study published in Science Advances has stated that global warming could be the reason behind the phenomenon. As glaciers melt, mass redistribution is causing the planet to shift and spin faster on its axis.
"It's quite possible that a negative leap second will be needed if the Earth's rotation rate increases further, but it's too early to say if this is likely to happen," physicist Peter Whibberley of the National Physics Laboratory, UK, told The Telegraph. "There are also international discussions taking place about the future of leap seconds, and it's also possible that the need for a negative leap second might push the decision towards ending leap seconds for good."
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