Climate change may affect timekeeping

Global warming could affect more than sea levels. Credit: Creative Commons

A recent study suggests that climate change is messing with how fast the Earth spins, which could mess up our clocks.

As ice melts in places like Greenland and Antarctica, more water gets dumped into the oceans. This extra water makes the Earth slow down a tiny bit as it spins. But don’t worry, the Earth is still spinning faster than before.

Because of this slowdown, the people who keep track of time worldwide might need to shave off a second from our clocks later than they planned.

The Earth does not spin at a constant speed

The main time system we use, called Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), relies on how fast the Earth spins. But since the Earth doesn’t spin at a constant speed, it can change how long our days and nights are.

Since the 1970s, we’ve added about 27 extra seconds to our clocks to make up for this change in spin speed. But now, because of climate change melting ice so fast, we might not need to take away a second until 2029.

This shift in timekeeping could be a big headache for computer systems all over the world, as they’re not used to dealing with “negative leap seconds” like this.

This is just one more way that our actions are affecting the world around us, and it’s something we need to pay attention to.

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Written by

Julian Phillips

Born in the UK, has lived in 9 countries, before finally coming to Spain in 2015. Currently living in Almeria and working out of the EWN office in Mojacar.