Climate Change is Slowing Down Earth's Rotation - Deepstash
Climate Change is Slowing Down Earth's Rotation

Climate Change is Slowing Down Earth's Rotation

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Climate Change's Unexpected Impact on Earth's Rotation

Climate Change's Unexpected Impact on Earth's Rotation

The melting of polar ice due to climate change is slowing down the Earth's rotation. This significant change could lead to a "negative leap second" being subtracted from atomic clocks to keep them aligned with the planet's rotation. This marks the first time human-induced climate change has measurably affected the Earth's rotation.

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Melting Polar Ice and Shifts in Mass Distribution

Melting Polar Ice and Shifts in Mass Distribution

As ice melts in Greenland and Antarctica, the resulting water flows toward the equator. This shift in the planet's mass distribution decreases its angular velocity. The effect is expected to become more pronounced as ice melt accelerates with continued global warming.

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Delaying the Addition of a Negative Leap Second

Delaying the Addition of a Negative Leap Second

The slowing rotation is counteracting a recent trend of the Earth spinning faster. This trend had raised the possibility of adding a negative leap second as early as 2026. However, the melting ice is delaying this event by about three years, pushing it to 2029.

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Challenges of Subtracting a Second from Atomic Clocks

Challenges of Subtracting a Second from Atomic Clocks

Subtracting a second from atomic clocks is unprecedented and could disrupt computer networks not designed for this change. Precise timekeeping is critical for satellite navigation, telecommunications, financial transactions, and other systems. Ensuring these systems can adapt to such a change is a significant challenge.

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Implications for Critical Systems and Infrastructure

Implications for Critical Systems and Infrastructure

The necessity of precise timekeeping underscores the potential for widespread disruption. Satellite navigation, telecommunications, financial transactions, and other critical systems rely on exact time measurements. Adapting these systems to account for a negative leap second will be essential to prevent operational issues.

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The Broader Impact of Human Activities on Planetary Mechanics

The Broader Impact of Human Activities on Planetary Mechanics

While the Earth's rotation has slowed over geological timescales, this is the first time human activities, such as greenhouse gas emissions, have altered it on a measurable scale. These findings highlight the far-reaching impacts of climate change, including sea level rise that accelerates the sinking of major coastal cities faster than previously estimated.

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CURATOR'S NOTE

And, our timekeeping systems are struggling to keep up

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