Tags: 2016 | extra | leap | second

2016's Extra Second to Leap In After the Year's Last Minute

2016's Extra Second to Leap In After the Year's Last Minute

(Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Saturday, 31 December 2016 10:53 AM

The year 2016 will get an extra "leap second," coming at the end of the year's last minute to keep the world's atomic clocks in sync.

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, or IERS, issued a bulletin this summer about the need to insert a "leap second" at the end of December.

The move would bring the atomic clocks in line with "Earth's own distinctive rhythm, which in this case is determined by its rotation," said NPR.

"Atomic clocks are more than a million times better at keeping time than the rotation of the Earth, which fluctuates unpredictably," said Peter Whibberley, a research scientist with England's National Physical Laboratory.

"Leap seconds are needed to prevent civil time drifting away from Earth time. Although the drift is small — taking around a thousand years to accumulate a one-hour difference — if not corrected, it would eventually result in clocks showing midday before sunrise," he said, per NPR.

Popular Science magazine explained that Internet-connected computers all over the world synchronize to Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC, through a process called network time protocol.

"Because Earth's rate of rotation is slowing down, we have to keep adding seconds," said Popular Science's Sara Chodosh. "Since the Earth doesn't slow down at a rate of exactly one second per year, we don't add leap seconds each year or even at regular intervals (like we do for leap years). We add leap seconds whenever The Powers That Be determine that we're in danger of having the difference between UTC and solar time grow longer than 0.9 seconds."

Brad Plumer and Joseph Stromberg of Vox said that while the leap second may be meddlesome for those atomic clocks, those with average tickers will not have to do a thing.

"People who write timekeeping software have had to go to lots of trouble to make sure the leap second doesn't cause any glitches, but you're all set," said Plumer and Stromberg. "Enjoy the extra time and contemplate the cosmos.

"Devices that set their times automatically — like phones and computers — will adjust on their own. And you really don't have to worry about your other clocks, because a one-second difference between their time and official time is probably too small for you to notice," they added.

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The year 2016 will get an extra "leap second," coming at the end of the year's last minute to keep the world's atomic clocks in sync.
2016, extra, leap, second
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2016-53-31
Saturday, 31 December 2016 10:53 AM
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