By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.


Do you ever feel like there is less time in the day?  You might literally be right!

According to scientists the time the Earth takes to complete a day’s rotation changes.  Lately it has been speeding up, making the day shorter.

On June 29th of this year, midnight arrived 1.59 milliseconds sooner than expected making it the shortest day in over half a century.  Data exists since the Earth’s rotation has been tracked using atomic clocks since the 1960s.

In 2020 the planet saw what were, at the time, the 28 shortest days in recorded history.  According to scientists, since 2016 the Earth has started to accelerate.  This year it rotates quicker than in 2021 and 2020.

If you were around during the Earth’s formation you would think our days now are quite a bit longer.  This would be correct as 1.4 billion years ago, a rotation of the Earth took less than 19 hours.  Days have gotten longer on the average, about one 74,000th of a second each year.  This is an average as the planet’s rotation can fluctuate on a day-to-day basis.

Scientists believe there are a number of factors that may impact the Earth’s rotation, including earthquakes, ice caps melting and refreezing, the climate, and the moon.  Stronger winds in El Niño years can also affect the rotation. Some have suggested the so-called “Chandler wobble” may have an effect on the rotation as well. That phenomenon is a “small, irregular deviation in the Earth’s points of rotation relative to the solid Earth,” as USA Today puts it.

Technology has had to account for this.  Since 1972 there have been occasional leap seconds.  This is a single-second addition to Coordinated Universal Time.  The issue now is if the current trend of shorter days continues, there may be a need for a negative leap second.  This would mean one second would be skipped.

The main concern is this causes problems with computer systems.  Over the past few years we have seen outages on services like Cloudflare and Reddit due to the leap seconds.   A negative leap second could lead to even more chaos.

Meta (formally Facebook) engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi have written about this in a blog post calling for an end to leap seconds.  The engineers said “With the Earth’s rotation pattern changing, it’s very likely that we will get a negative leap second at some point in the future.”  They went on to say “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.”

This means that if you feel like there is less time in the day, you are correct.  However; unless you are some kind of an advanced type of cyborg the faster rotation is probably not actually the cause of why you feel there is less time in the day.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.

Links and brand/store information provided are for information only and are not endorsed by Salem Media Group, KPAM or the show’s hosts.  

Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw