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According to LiveScience, Earth is spinning faster than it has in 50 years. The 28 fastest days on record happened in 2020, with the Earth rotating milliseconds faster than in previous years.

Source: Wee Science/YouTube

The change is driven by atmospheric pressure, winds, ocean currents and the earth’s core. International timekeepers must reset their clocks whenever the earth deviates by more than .4 seconds.

Scientists will add a “leap second” to make up for the changes. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), scientists have added leap seconds every year and a half, on average, since 1972. Because this is an acceleration in the earth’s rotation, scientists might need to add a negative leap second.

“It’s quite possible that a negative leap second will be needed if the Earth’s rotation rate increases further, but it’s too early to say if this is likely to happen,” physicist Peter Whibberley of the National Physics Laboratory in the U.K., told The Telegraph. “There are also international discussions taking place about the future of leap seconds, and it’s also possible that the need for a negative leap second might push the decision towards ending leap seconds for good.”

The change in rotation might not affect everyday life, but it certainly impacts navigation, spaceflight, energy, and other industries. “In everyday life, this extra second has practically no importance,” Wolfgang Dick, a spokesman for the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, the organization that maintains global time, told USA TODAY in 2016. “However, in every field where exact time is needed (astronomy, navigation, spaceflight, but also computer networks for stock markets or energy supply, and much more) this second is of great importance,” Dick said.

Read more recent earth news in One Green Planet, including Bill Gates talking about climate change.

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