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The Earth rotates too fast: what is the reason and what consequences will it have for our lives?


Our planet recently set the record for the shortest day, which fits in with the trend of recent years.

A little over a month ago the Earth recorded the shortest day since atomic clocks were created in the 1960s to measure the rotation of the planet around its axis.

An average day has 24 hours, or 86,400 seconds. However, on June 29, 2022, the Earth completed a turn on its own axis in 1.59 milliseconds less.

On July 26, our planet almost repeated that record, ending the day 1.5 milliseconds early.

Two years earlier, on July 19, 2020, the rotation of our planet took 1.4602 milliseconds less.

The data show that e Earth has accelerated in recent years. The previous 28 shortest days in the history of observations were recorded in 2020. In 2021, however, records were not set, but during this year the trend resurfaced.

These statistics go against the long-term trend or of our planet: the deceleration due to the influence of the Moon. As a result, the length of the day on Earth on average has been growing steadily by about 74 thousandths of a second for millions of years. That is to say that 1,400 million years ago, the day took only 19 hours.

What force is behind the short-term trend?

There are several hypotheses in this regard and one of them is climate. It suggests that the melting of ice masses in the polar areas and on the tops of the mountains slightly changes the shape of the Earth: it becomes flatter at the poles and more convex at the equator.

Another hypothesis refers to the so-called Chandler wobble, a small periodic variation in the earth's rotation axis related to the distribution of mass on the surface, interior, ocean and atmosphere.

The Russian geophysicist Leonid Zótov declared to TimeAndDate that between 2017 and 2020 that effect disappeared , which could influence the Earth to accelerate.

Judah Levine, professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder and expert at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (USA USA) opined that one of the possible explanations is the “momentum exchange between the Earth and the atmosphere”.

“The sum of both is a constant, which means, for example, that if the atmosphere slows down, the Earth speeds up. Or, on the contrary, if the atmosphere speeds up, the Earth slows down”, said the researcher cited by Inverse.

Simultaneously, the exchange of angular momentum between the nucleus terrestrial and the cloak “Both effects… can give speed to the surface of the Earth or take it away”, he assured. But the dynamics of the atmosphere and the interior of the Earth, is so complex that it is impossible, at least at this time, to point to one of these factors as the sure cause of the planet's hurried pace, he concluded.

Consequences of this phenomenon

We all rely on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC, for its acronym in English) which is used for clocks, both physical and computerized, and is adjusted by time zones.

However, the terrestrial spin is measured with the astronomical time, highlighting the growing difference between the two.

If the trend continues, you might have to introduce a negative leap second, for first time in history, to make up the difference.

Until now one second additional 27 times, most recently in 2016. The measure is akin to the additional day added every four years to synchronize the 365-day calendar year with the Earth's rotation around the Sun.

The need to enter the second is regulated by the International Earth Rotation Service: in general, the measure is applied if the difference between UTC and astronomical time is greater than of 0.8 seconds in a year.

The people do not perceive such small changes, but this phenomenon becomes a real problem for computers. Although we we can add a second mentally, for computers this is something incomprehensible.

Therefore, this solution threatens to cause havoc In the net. Above all, it is a serious problem for companies like Google, which manage Internet protocols that synchronize system clocks i.e. devices frequently check these protocols to make sure they have the correct time.

In the past, attempts to fix this problem have caused a number of complications: the July 1, 2012, for example, the Reddit portal was down for an hour. Similar problems were experienced by the Mozilla and Gawker servers.

Although the impacts of a negative second have not been tested on a large scale, it is not excluded that it could be a big problem for people that manages the infrastructures of 'hardware'.


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