ICYDK: Earth has recorded its shortest day

Apparently, the planet is rotating faster than usual

Do you still remember what you did on June 29? Well, if you feel like time wasn’t enough that day then you’re correct. In fact, the Earth recorded its shortest day on that date ever since the invention of the atomic clock. 

Photo by NASA from Unsplash

It takes 24 hours or 86,400 seconds for Earth to complete its rotation. But on June 29, the planet completed its “one spin in 1.59 milliseconds less than 24 hours,” according to Time and Date. This is not the first time it happened. USA Today reported that the planet experienced 28 short days in 2020. And on July 26, 2022, it finished its rotation 1.5 milliseconds less. 

While there are no definite answers as to why Earth is spinning faster, experts believe that the melting of glaciers affects the planet’s rotation. With less pressure on its north and south pole, the planet becomes more circular enabling its speedy rotation. 

“This phenomenon can be simply visualized by thinking about a spinning figure skater, who manages angular velocity by controlling their arms and hands,” Meta engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi told CBS News. “As they spread their arms the angular velocity decreases, preserving the skater's momentum. As soon as the skater tucks their arms back in, the angular velocity increases. Same happens here at this moment because of rising temperatures on Earth. Ice caps melt and lead to angular velocity increase.”

Others see the planet’s fast rotation happening because of the “Chandler wobble” phenomenon, a term for “a small, irregular movement of Earth’s geographical poles across the surface of the globe,” as defined by Time and Date. 

So, what will happen if Earth continues to spin fast? There is a possibility for a “negative leap second,” meaning that our clock would skip one second to be in tune with the planet’s movement.

“I hope that Earth’s acceleration stops and we don’t need to subtract a second, but who knows?” Leonid Zotov at the Sternberg Astronomical Institute of Lomonosov Moscow State University tells Forbes. “Predicting variations in Earth’s rotation is almost as difficult as predicting stock prices.” 

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