Earth Is Spinning Faster Than Usual,

Giving Us the Shortest Day EVER Recorded

  • On June 29, Earth experienced its shortest-ever day—1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours.
  • The apparent speed-up of Earth’s rotation could be attributed to the “Chandler Wobble.”
  • This minuscule change in time could introduce the need for a negative leap second.

If it seems like the world is moving fast, know that it truly is.

On June 29, the National Physical Laboratory in England recorded the shortest day in history: 1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours. And Earth’s quick-spinning day earlier this summer isn’t a one-off fluke, either.

Using data from the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, timeanddate.com says 2020 boasted 28 of the world’s shortest days on record since the introduction of the atomic clock in the 1960s made the measurement more scientifically accurate. Earth’s hastened rotation has continued to speed up compared to the average in 2021, leading to 2022’s record for the shortest-ever day recorded. (July 26 nearly eclipsed the record, too.)

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 July 25 Meta post.

“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,” Meta engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi note in the post. “In any case, every leap second is a major source of pain for people who manage hardware infrastructures.”


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