Why This Year Will Be Exactly One Second Longer Than Previous Years
Science| | By Lauren Boudreau
You can now party one second longer on New Year’s Eve, really.
The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) announced that one full second will be added to the end of year 2016, according to The Verge.
The second is called a leap second and is added sometimes in order to account for the Earth’s variations in rotation. Natural phenomenons like earthquakes and tides can affect how the Earth rotates on its axis and can actually slow it down. The leap second is applied in order to keep the atomic clock accurate.
However, some people want to do away with leap seconds because they can cause a huge headache for computer systems that are not programmed to accommodate them. In fact, there was supposed to be a vote at the World Radiocommunications Conference in Geneva in November to decide whether to keep leap seconds or not, but it was postponed until 2023, The Verge reports.
This year, the atomic second will be added mostly thanks to the El Niño we experienced. The U.S. Naval Observatory spokesman Geoff Chester told the Associated Press that warmer water causes the Earth to take longer to rotate.
So, after 11:59 p.m. and 59 seconds on December 31, 2016, the time will be 11:59:60 before going to the next year.