From elementary school it has been known that the Earth rotates on its axis in exactly 24 hours, but something has changed since at least 2020. The accelerated rotation can affect GPS satellites as well as communication systems on the planet.
Earth recorded the shortest day of its life on July 29, when it completed a full rotation 1.59 milliseconds short of its standard 24-hour rotation.
According to a report by The Independent, it nearly broke the barrier again this month with a time of 1.50 milliseconds in less than 24 hours on July 26.
Let’s find out why the Earth is spinning faster and what this could mean:
What happens when the Earth rotates?
It’s elementary school wisdom that the Earth spins on its axis in exactly 24 hours, but something has changed since at least 2020.
The Independent reports that the planet has been increasing its speed for some time now. In July 2020, Earth recorded the shortest month since the 1960s, when July 19 was 1.47 milliseconds shorter than a normal 24-hour day.
The following year, the Earth continued to spin faster, but no records were broken.
Although no one has been able to pinpoint its exact cause, scientists have speculated that several processes may be behind this increased rotation.
According to the Independent, melting glaciers and climate change in general, movement of the planet’s inner molten core, seismic activity and a phenomenon called the “Chandler’s wobble” could be the cause.
The Chandler wobble is a slight wobble in the Earth’s axis of rotation, similar to the wobble that occurs when a spinning top picks up speed or slows down.
How does this affect life?
The acceleration of rotation affects various technologies on Earth, including GPS satellites that use atomic clocks.
According to the Forbes report, the faster rotation means that the Earth will be in the same position a little earlier than the previous day. Half a millisecond is equal to 10 inches or 26 centimeters at the equator. In short, GPS satellites that must already be corrected for the effect of Einstein’s general theory of relativity (the curves of space and time) will quickly become useless.
It can also affect smartphones, computers, and communication systems in general that synchronize with a Network Time Protocol (NTP) server. It is defined as the number of seconds since 00:00:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on January 1, 1970.
To solve this problem, international timekeepers may have to add a negative leap second – a “missed second”.
According to the Independent, UTC, the main time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time, has been updated 27 times with a jump second.
Image of Earth rotation
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