Scientists Are in a Race Against Time and Earth’s Rotation


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Scientists Are in a Race Against Time and Earth’s Rotation

The year 2020 may have felt like it lasted forever, but it was actually the shortest one in decades. In fact, it was 1.3 milliseconds shorter. The planet is now spinning faster than it has any time in the last half-century, with 2020 containing 28 of the fastest days on record since 1960.

And 2021 is expected to be even faster…which has ignited a fiery debate on what to do to keep up. It may sound weird, but shifts in the planet’s spin are actually normal. Things like the pull of the moon, jet stream winds, and plate tectonics all have an effect. Just like an ice skater draws in their arms to spin faster, anything that moves mass closer to Earth’s axis speeds up the planet’s spin, making the days a few milliseconds shorter.

It doesn’t seem like much, but these subtle changes in Earth’s spin can cause major headaches for anyone trying to keep their clocks in sync.


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