Global warming slows Earth rotation

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According to recent research, global warming is measurably affecting the rotation of the Earth in an unprecedented way. The key findings are:
  • Melting ice at the poles due to climate change is shifting mass from high latitudes towards the equator. This redistribution of mass is slowing down Earth's rotation, similar to how a spinning figure skater slows down by extending their arms outward.
  • Normally, processes in Earth's liquid outer core cause the planet's rotation to speed up slightly over time. However, the effect of polar ice melt is now large enough to counteract this and slow the rotation instead.
  • This slowing of Earth's spin is impacting global timekeeping. Leap seconds are occasionally added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to keep it in sync with the planet's rotation. The next leap second was expected to be a negative one in 2026.
  • However, the study found that polar ice melt has delayed the need for a negative leap second by about 3 years, pushing it to 2029. Without the effect of global warming, it would have been needed sooner.
  • Implementing a negative leap second could pose unprecedented problems for computer networks and systems that rely on precise timekeeping. Some argue leap seconds may need to be abolished as a result.
In summary, human-caused climate change is now significantly impacting Earth's rotation itself, a powerful illustration of the far-reaching effects of global warming on the entire planet. While natural orbital cycles also influence Earth's spin on much longer timescales, the current rapid changes are clearly attributed to anthropogenic global warming.
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