It is well known that Earth takes approximately 24 hours to rotate on its axis. But this established fact is seeing some major seismic changes. According to scientists, on July 29, Earth completed a full spin in about 1.59 milliseconds shorter than its standard timeframe ( 23 hours and 56 minutes). Notably, this is not the first time that the blue planet has spun faster. Atomic clocks have, however, recently revealed that the Earth's rotation is rapidly accelerating.
In 2020, Earth recorded its shortest month and July 19 was recorded to be the shortest day of that year. It was 1.47 milliseconds under 24 hours.
The following year, Earth continued to rotate at a generally increased pace, but it did not break any records.
On June 29, 2022, Earth made its fastest-ever rotation, and on July 26, 2022, there was a day that lasted 1.50 milliseconds less.
There are reports that the planet may continue to witness such shorter days in the upcoming years. According to Interesting Engineering (IE) news outlet, a 50-year phase of shorter days may be starting right now for Earth.
Why is Earth rotating fast?
There are no conclusive proofs at the moment to decipher why Earth has been spinning fast. But there are some leading theories that are doing the rounds.
- Some claim that poles’ weight has seen a drop due to the melting of glaciers
- Others note that the molten core of our planet's interior is moving over time.
- While some believe that seismic activity could be the reason
- Others believe it is because of "Chandler wobble”, which is a small deviation in the Earth's geographic poles across its surface
What are the consequences?
According to reports, Earth’s fastening rotation could have major consequences on atomic clocks, which are used in GPS satellites. It won’t take into account the Earth’s changing rotation.
This means that GPS satellites—which already have to be corrected for the effect of Einstein's Theory of Relativity — will quickly become useless.
Apart from that, smartphones, computers, and other communications systems will render useless as they are synchronised with Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers.
Since the clock progresses from 23:59:59 to 23:59:60 before resetting to 00:00:00, a time jump like this can crash programmes and corrupt data.
(With inputs from agencies)