Melting Ice and the Future of Global Time: The UCT Conundrum and the Possible Introduction of a Negative Leap Second

Global Warming Impacts Earth’s Rotation and Universal Time Measurement | TECHNOLOGY

A study published on Wednesday has raised concerns about the impact of melting ice on the Earth’s rotation speed and the calculation of Universal Coordinated Time (UCT). UCT is determined by ultra-sensitive atomic clocks since 1967, ensuring the accuracy of digital and communication infrastructures globally.

To maintain synchrony between UCT and astronomical time, leap seconds have been added to atomic time since 1972 to compensate for fluctuations in the Earth’s rotation speed. However, melting ice presents a new challenge, potentially requiring the introduction of a negative leap second in the future.

Metrology specialists are concerned about the implications of introducing a negative leap second in an increasingly connected world. To address this issue, leap seconds will not be added until 2035, and metrologists will allow the difference between atomic time and the Earth’s rotation to reach one minute by that time.

The acceleration of ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica may compromise this plan due to its impact on the Earth’s rotation speed. Since the 1990s, melting ice has been slowing down the Earth’s rotation, affecting the distribution of fluids on and inside the Earth. This could delay the transition to a negative leap second until 2029, giving metrologists more time to decide on

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