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Earth is spinning faster than usual, but why? What experts say after shortest day ever


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Time flies. Literal.

Scientists at the National Physical Laboratory in England recorded the shortest day on record on June 29 and another shortened day on July 26, Popular Mechanics reported.

On both days, Earth completed its usual 24-hour rotation in less than 24 hours, The Guardian reported. June 29 was 1.59 milliseconds shorter than normal — the shortest day since the 1960s, when scientists began using atomic clocks to measure time, Forbes reported. July 26 approached the newly set record, at 1.50 milliseconds shorter than usual, according to timeanddate.com.

The shortened days are caused by the Earth spinning faster than normal, Interesting Engineering reported.

But why is the earth spinning faster? Scientists aren’t entirely sure, but they have a few competing explanations:

  • Changes in climate or climate systems, such as the melting and freezing of glaciers or winds, whose shifting weight is pulling the Earth, The New York Post reported.
  • Earthquakes and other seismic activity that move mass toward the center of the Earth, like a spinning person pulling their arms inward, The Guardian reported.
  • Movement in Earth’s molten core shifts mass on the planet, Forbes reported.
  • Ocean circulation and pressure on the seafloor pulling the Earth’s axis, ABC reported.
  • The “Chandler Wobble” — a natural shift of Earth’s axis because the planet isn’t perfectly spherical — could be linked to the spin rates, timeanddate.com reported.

Australian astronomer Fred Watson explained ABC, saying, “When you start looking at the real core, you realize that the Earth isn’t just a solid ball spinning.”

“It has liquid on the inside, it has liquid on the outside, and it has an atmosphere and all these things slosh a little bit,” Watson told ABC.

That sloshing around could affect the rate of Earth’s rotation, ABC reported.

Some scientists think this could be the start of a new period of shorter days, Interesting Engineering reported.

Still, the potential implications of shorter-than-usual days — namely, a “negative leap second” where there’s a coordinated effort to drop a second to catch up to solar time — are still a long way off, ABC reported.

The earth has been spinning faster lately

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Quote: The Earth is spinning faster than normal, but why? What Experts Say After Shortest Day Ever (2022, August 3), retrieved August 3, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-earth-faster-usual-experts-shortest.html

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