The speed of rotation of the earth continues to evolve and the days are getting shorter. Scientists are observing changes that could have serious consequences for our daily lives.
For several years, scientists study with concern the evolution of our days. These tend to shorten, like last June 29, which lasted 1.29 milliseconds less than expected. It was the shortest day in history. At least since specialists began to study and record the length of our days.
This observation can have serious impacts on our lives and economies. Our modern world has developed critical technologies and systems using atomic clocks. Our public transport such as our metro, our trains and our planes, are managed and synchronized using these clocks.
In 2020, scientists have recorded the shortest 28 days since they began studying these phenomena in the 60s. Similarly, last July 26 lasted 1.5 milliseconds less than expected. According to the claims of Leonid Zotov, a researcher at Lomonosov Moscow University, the rotation of the earth has accelerated since 2016. This year our planet is spinning faster than in 2020 and 2021.
Since the formation of the blue planet, the days have gradually lengthened. 1.4 billion years ago, days only lasted 19 hours. Over the millennia, bits of seconds have lengthened the length of the days at the rate of 1/74,000 second per year.
According to scientists, different factors can explain these fluctuations. The rotation of our planet can be impacted by earthquakes, the melting and refreezing of polar ice, strong winds, the moon and the climate in general. An additional element to take into account is the “Chandler wobble” effect which is the displacement of the exact position of the north and south poles of the earth.
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Adjusting Atomic Clocks: Potential Global Chaos
Since 1972, we have occasionally adjusted Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) by adding leap seconds. To account for fluctuations in day length, we may need to soon withdraw a second from UTC. The addition of leap seconds has caused many network outages in recent years such as Reddit and Cloudflare.
We don’t have to date never tested on a large scale the removal of a leap second. Engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi from Meta, fear a devastating effect on software systems relying on precision time calculations. A biblical disaster scenario (transport, army, social networks, etc.) could quickly become the worst nightmare of our scientists.