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Earth experienced its shortest ever-recorded days in June and July of this year, sparking debates among scientists about whether the planet is literally spinning faster, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Generally, Earth completes a full turn on its axis every 24 hours. But on June 29, the planet had its shortest day on record, as researchers observed midnight arrived 1.59 milliseconds earlier than usual. That record came close to being broken a month later when July 26 arrived 1.5 milliseconds earlier, the Guardian noted. Scientists in the 1960s began using a high-precision atomic clock to measure Earth’s rotation.
The phenomenon appears to be caused by the Earth spinning faster than usual but scientists have yet to reach a consensus on why this is happening now.
Some blame climate change, such as the melting and freezing of glaciers or say it is due to the winds, whose shifting weight pulls on the Earth. Geologists meanwhile say movements within Earth’s molten core are shifting the mass of the planet.
Others attribute the increased speed to the “Chandler Wobble,” a natural movement of the Earth’s axis caused by the globe not being completely spherical.
Regardless of the cause, the phenomenon has sparked discussions about whether this marks the beginning of shorter days and if countries should begin implementing the first “negative leap second.” This coordinated effort means that civil time would skip a second to keep up with the faster-spinning planet.