You couldn’t spare a second, earth?

One day in the next couple of years, everyone in the world will lose a second of their time. Exactly when that will happen is being influenced by humans, according to a new study, as melting polar ice alters the Earth’s rotation and changes time itself. The hours and minutes that dictate our days are determined by Earth’s rotation. But that rotation is not constant; it can change ever so slightly, depending on what’s happening on Earth’s surface and in its molten core.

These nearly imperceptible changes occasionally mean the world’s clocks need to be adjusted by a “leap second,” which may sound tiny but can have a big impact on computing systems. Plenty of seconds have been added over the years. But after a long trend of slowing, the Earth’s rotation is now speeding up because of changes in its core. For the first time ever, a second will need to be taken off.

But exactly when this will happen is being influenced by global warming, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. Melting polar ice is delaying the leap second by three years, pushing it from 2026 to 2029, the report found.

Amanda Seyfried: In Time by Andrew Niccol, 2011, Laura Paddison and Rachel Ramirez, 28.03.2024