*The Earth is allegedly spinning faster, and scientists recently recorded its shortest day last month.
The normal length of day is 24 hours or 86,400 seconds but according to scientist Leonid Zotov, on June 29, Earth’s spin was 1.59 milliseconds less than the average day, CBS News reports.
“Since 2016 the Earth started to accelerate,” said Zotov, who works at works for Lomonosov Moscow State University and recently published a study on what might cause the changes in Earth’s rotation, per the report. “This year it rotates quicker than in 2021 and 2020.”
The fluctuation could be caused by Earth’s tides, according to Zotov and his colleagues.
Here’s more from the CBS report:
He says not every day is shorter, but if the trend continues, atomic time – the universal way time is measured on Earth – may have to change. Some scientists propose introducing a negative leap second. “Since we can not change the clock arrows attached to the Earth rotation, we adjust the atomic clock scale,” he said.
As opposed to leap years, which have an extra day added, a negative leap second would mean clocks skip one second.
“Negative leap second handling is supported for a long time and companies like Meta often run simulations of this event,” Meta engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi told CBS News. “However, it has never been verified on a large scale and will likely lead to unpredictable and devastating outages across the world.”
“Introducing new leap seconds is a risky practice that does more harm than good, and we believe it is time to introduce new technologies to replace it,” they wrote in the blog post.
“The impact of a negative leap second has never been tested on a large scale; it could have a devastating effect on the software relying on timers or schedulers,” they write. “In any case, every leap second is a major source of pain for people who manage hardware infrastructures.”
One factor contributing to Earth’s faster spin may be the constant melting and refreezing of ice caps on the world’s tallest mountains.
“It is all about the law of conservation of momentum that applies to our planet Earth. Every atom on the planet contributes to the momentum of the earth’s angular velocity based on the distance to the rotation axis of the earth,” Obleukhov and Byagowi told CBS News. “So, once things move around, the angular velocity of the earth can vary.”
“This phenomenon can be simply visualized by thinking about a spinning figure skater, who manages angular velocity by controlling their arms and hands,” they said. “As they spread their arms the angular velocity decreases, preserving the skater’s momentum. As soon as the skater tucks their arms back in, the angular velocity increases. Same happens here at this moment because of rising temperatures on Earth. Ice caps melt and lead to angular velocity increase.”