The Earth is currently spinning faster than it has in the last half-century, according to official data – so much so that the length of a day is currently ‘ever so slightly’ shorter than 24 hours.
Due to this new data, timekeepers are considering adding in a ‘negative leap second’ to account for the discrepancy. Since the 1970s, scientists have added 27 ‘leap seconds’ to tackle the Earth-facing periods where it spins slower – but never before have they added a ‘negative leap second’.
Basically, this would bring solar and atomic time back in line with each other, but experts are still debating if removing this second is crucial or not. A research scientist, Peter Wibberley, shared, ‘It is certainly correct that the Earth is spinning faster now than at any time in the last 50 years’.
He continued, ‘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. There are also international discussions taking place about the future of leap.’
In reality, if this happens, it won’t affect your sense of time because your watch and phone are surely not precise enough to recognise a difference, the atomic clock just helps scientists keep a precise record of day length.
The only worry that scientists have is, if left unattended, it could have a lasting impact, seeing as satellites and communications equipment need to align the true time with solar time to maintain precision.
Also, the last time a leap second was added was on New Year’s Eve 2016…But, seeing that the Earth has been slowing down, there has never been a need to add a negative leap second.
Therefore, scientists are also looking into global warming to see if this could be impacting the earth’s spin. Critics also say that adding a negative leap second might lead to digital issues, and websites crashing – so instead, some have suggested transferring the world’s clocks from solar time to atomic time.
Now that’s pretty complicated, isn’t it?