Scientists are warning that the Earth is spinning faster than normal, and this change could have a detrimental impact on technology, especially computer networks.
The seemingly minute change has left scientists scratching their heads. The new data collected by the UK’s National Physical Laboratory found that the planet is now spinning faster than it was 100 years ago, including a June 29 time of 1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours, which is the shortest day on record, the New York Post reported.
Scientists explained that if the Earth’s rotation continues to increase, atomic clocks may need to be adjusted by removing one second.
“If Earth’s fast rotation continues, it could lead to the introduction of the first-ever negative leap second,” Astrophysicist Graham Jones told TimeandDate.com.
“In general, over long periods, Earth’s spin is slowing. Every century, Earth takes a couple of milliseconds or so longer to complete one rotation (where 1 millisecond equals 0.001 seconds). Within this general pattern, however, the speed of Earth’s spin fluctuates. From one day to the next, the time Earth takes to complete one rotation goes up or down by a fraction of a millisecond,” the site said.
They noted that in recent years, the planet has been speeding up, with the Earth speeding up even more in 2022.
There are several reasons why the process could be taking place, including inner or outer planetary layers, oceans, tides or climate shifts. Scientists can only make guesses and don’t know for sure.
One scientist told the site that he believes the change is due to the Chandler wobble – “a small, irregular movement of Earth’s geographical poles across the surface of the globe.”
“The normal amplitude of the Chandler wobble is about three to four meters at Earth’s surface, but from 2017 to 2020 it disappeared,” Leonid Zotov told TimeandDate.
Zotov will present his theory at next week’s Asia Oceania Geosciences Society conference.
A negative leap second would create major problems for computer networks and IT systems.
“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,” researchers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi said in a blog post.
“In any case, every leap second is a major source of pain for people who manage hardware infrastructures.”
Zotov believes that there is a 70 percent chance that the Earth’s days will continue to decrease and that a negative leap second will be necessary. But he added that there is no way to know for sure.