The Earth has been spinning faster lately

Posted: January 9, 2021 by oldbrew in Measurement, Natural Variation, solar system dynamics

In fact it’s unprecedented, in recent history at least. But 2021 is predicted to be even shorter.
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Scientists around the world have noted that the Earth has been spinning on its axis faster lately—the fastest ever recorded, says

Several scientists have spoken to the press about the unusual phenomenon, with some pointing out that this past year saw some of the shortest days ever recorded.

For most of the history of mankind, time has been marked by the 24-hour day/night cycle (with some alterations made for convenience as the seasons change). The cycle is governed by the speed at which the planet spins on its axis.

Because of that, the length of a day has become the standard by which time is marked—each day lasts approximately 86,400 seconds. The day/night cycle is remarkably consistent despite the fact that it actually varies slightly on a regular basis.

Several decades ago, the development of atomic clocks began allowing scientists to record the passage of time in incredibly small increments, in turn, allowing for measuring the length of a given day down to the millisecond. And that has led to the discovery that the spin of the planet is actually far more variable than once thought.

Since such measurements began, scientists have also found that the Earth was slowing its spin very gradually (compensated by the insertion of a leap second now and then)—until this past year, when it began spinning faster—so much so that some in the field have begun to wonder if a negative leap second might be needed this year, an unprecedented suggestion.

Scientists also noted that this past summer, on July 19, the shortest day ever was recorded—it was 1.4602 milliseconds shorter than the standard.

Full article here.

  1. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Span a lot faster for dinosaurs. Probably magic AGW CO2 causing it. Or unicorn farts….

  2. Coeur de Lion says:

    Conservation of angular momentum says that sea level rise slows global rotation (Morner – bless him) thus sea level must be falling now ! Hurrah

  3. JB says:


  4. […] The Earth has been spinning faster lately […]

  5. Eric Johnson says:

    Is that why I’ve lost weight recently…?

    Have aliens been lighting unicorn farts on fire causing strange sightings in the desert around Area 51? Or was that some bad tequila…

  6. tom0mason says:

    Time is an illusion. Lunch time doubly so. — Douglas Adams.

    How do we ‘know’ that the Earth is spinning faster when we have a self referential time measurement system.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Tom – it’s all done with caesium atoms.
    – – –
    From, 2 Dec. 2020 (the NLCs have now turned up):

    Missing NLCs is just one of the curious weather patterns currently underway at the southern end of our planet.

    Making a list: (1) Earth’s southern ozone hole is not only open, but also the biggest it’s ever been in December. (2) The air above Antarctica is currently at record cold levels for this time of year–the result of an icy polar vortex that refuses to break up. (3) In the stratosphere, east-west winds at 60 degrees South are blowing at record speed. From top to bottom, the Antarctic atmosphere is in a quirky state.

    Solar cycle 25: no sunspots in the last 7 days.

  8. Graeme No.3 says:

    Neither Brontosaurus nor Unicorns still exist, and there is no proof that the latter ever existed. So obviously the reduction in global temperature from the early Cretaceous to the present MUST be due to the extinction of the Brontosaurs and related Sauropods OR the reduction in the CO2 level (from 2700 to 420 causing about 2℃ cooling.
    That should be enough to launch 100 academic papers proving that very theme.The ‘researchers’ will fall faul of the ‘renewables” lobby, which, as we know, relies on the existence of Unicorns (and the Fairy Godmother and/or the Easter Bunny) to convince gullible politicians to spend enormous sums on their fantasies.
    See, you are a troublemaker

  9. Gamecock says:

    Astronomical pedantry:

    I am pleased with the authors’ description as ’24-hour day/night cycle.’ Most everyone thinks the earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours. It actually does it in 23 hours, 56 minutes. It is the earth’s year long revolution around the sun that makes appear to be 24 hours.

    Hence, the earth rotates on its axis 366(.25) times a year (!).

    Ask anyone how many times the earth rotates on its axis in a year, betcha they get it wrong. And they will even be willing to fight about it, based on their observations.

  10. Gamecock says:

    ‘The Earth has been spinning faster lately’

    It spun 366 times in the last year! OH MY!

  11. oldmanK says:

    Quote “Abstract. The most conspicuous effects of non-gravitational forces in the Earth-Moon system are the accelerations of the Earth’s spin and of the Moon’s mean angular velocity.”

    That is from R. R. NEWTON


    * Paper presented at the AAAS Symposium on the Early History of the Earth and Moon in Philadelphia on 28 December 1971.

    Rediscovering something already known? See the thread ‘First detection of a built-in wobble on another planet – Mars’

  12. stpaulchuck says:

    must be a pretty slow news day if this is the best they’ve got

  13. tom0mason says:

    yes I know and have worked with them.
    Question: What calibrates the Caesium clocks? How can the frequency of the Caesium ions be known without a thorough understanding of time and it’s passing? Is the passing of time assumed to be a constant like the assumed speed of light?