The 28 shortest days ever recorded occurred in 2020. If trend continues, we may have to “speed up” our clocks in 2021.
Do your days seem to “fly” by lately? It might not be just in your imagination.
The Earth is literally spinning on its axis faster than it ever has since we started timing it in 1960.
Scientists have recorded some the shortest days ever during this past year, making 2020 more unusual than it’s already been.
The 28 fastest days on record (since 1960) all occurred in 2020, with Earth completing its revolutions around its axis milliseconds quicker than average.
The record for the shortest day happened this past summer on July 19th. It was a full 1.4602 milliseconds shorter than the standard 24 hour cycle.
Scientists use the atomic clock to record time much more specifically, because it has the ability to record time down to a millisecond.
As a result, scientists are able to see minute variations in the typical 24 hour day/night cycle more clearly.
If the speed in which the Earth spins is greater than .4 atomic seconds, scientists will have to adjust the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) by which everyone sets their clocks.
In order for atomic speed and UCT to come back into alignment, scientists may have to subtract a “leap second” this year, which would be a first.
The average length of day is 86,400 seconds (UTC) but because astronomical time is so specific, a day in 2021 will clock in .05 milliseconds shorter than its UTC counterpart. There could be as much as a 19 millisecond lag time in 2021.
“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.