What is Earth's wobble? July 29, 2022 was SHORTEST day ever, sparks fears of 'devastating effect' on time

If the planet continues to spin at a generally increased rate in the coming years, we might enter a 50-year phase of shorter days starting right now


                            What is Earth's wobble? July 29, 2022 was SHORTEST day ever, sparks fears of 'devastating effect' on time
A space view of the Earth with a clearly visible hurricane over Florida and the Mexican gulf (visibleearth.nasa.gov/Getty Images)
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On July 29, Earth experienced its shortest-ever day ie,1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours. The planet has recorded its shortest day on record leading to panic among experts and scientists. A minuscule 1.59 milliseconds was shaved off the normal 24-hour rotation on June 29, due to the planet’s “wobble” reducing. As per sources, the planet has increased the speed of its rotations in recent times. Earlier July 19, 2020 was recorded as the shortest day of all time that year. Earth completed its rotations in 1.47 milliseconds which is lesser than the standard 24 hours.

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In 2021, the planet continued its spin at an increased rate. However, it did not lead to any unusual rotation. The reason behind the increased speed in Earth’s rotation is still unknown, however, scientists are plotting the processes in the inner or outer layer of the core, oceans, tides, and climatic changes as the reason behind it.

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Some blame the “Chandler Wobble.” First discovered in the late 1800s, the concept basically states Earth’s spin on its axis isn’t exacting. There’s a natural wobble in the measurement, whether because the Earth isn’t perfectly spherical, because tides change, because winds move water, or even the fact that earthquakes cause blips. Others blame the constant melting and refreezing of ice caps and other climate change factors. Scientists simply aren’t sure.

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What are the Impacts of Earth’s Fast Rotations?

According to various experts, The spinning of Earth at this speed is fascinating as well as concerning because if the earth continues to spin at this rate, it can introduce a negative leap second. It can have confusing consequences for electronic gadgets like smartphones, computers, and other communication devices or systems. This is majorly because the clock progresses from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60 before resetting to 00:00:00. A time jump like this can, therefore, crash programs and corrupt data due to the timestamps on the data storage. Recently many such phenomena have taken place in the planet including Comet K2.

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In such case, international timekeepers may need to add a negative leap second - a "drop second" to resolve the issue. The clock should change from 23:59:58 to 00:00:00. If this is not done,  it could have a "devastating effect" on the software relying on timers and schedulers. Interestingly, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time, has already been updated with a leap second 27 times, stated sources

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Expert comments 

Scientists opined that if Earth’s rotational speed trend continues, scientists may want to introduce a negative leap second, which could help compensate for the shorter days we experience as a result. But that could lead to technological issues, according to a Meta post dated July 25, 2022. This periodic adjustment mainly benefits scientists and astronomers as it allows them to observe celestial bodies using Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) for most purposes. If there were no UTC corrections, then adjustments would have to be made to the legacy equipment and software that synchronize to UTC for astronomical observations.

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Experts also stated one of many contributing factors to irregularities in the Earth’s rotation is the constant melting and refreezing of ice caps on the world’s tallest mountains. A major setback of leap second is that the time change confused the high-resolution timer (hrtimer), sparking hyperactivity on the servers, which locked up the machines’ CPUs. They added if it keeps happening, a “negative second” will need to be removed from atomic clocks.

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