Earth's rotation variances causing an extra second to be added to 2016.
Hey, Bama. Got a second? That was what all Auburn fans were asking Alabama Coach Nick Saban after he lobbied the officials for an extra second to be put back on the clock for a game-winning field goal attempt in the annual Iron Bowl against rival Auburn. He got the second he wanted, but the field goal was short and Auburn ran the kick back for a touchdown, eventually sending the Tigers to the BCS Championship game in 2013 instead of the Tide.
At the very end of this year, an extra second, or leap second, will be added to December 31st to keep our clocks in sync with shifts in the rotation angle of the Earth. The announcement was made today by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, the body responsible for recommending the leap seconds to make the corrections.
Prior to the 20th century, time was ordinarily measured by the position and movement of the Earth and its relation to the stars and surrounding planets. But new technology has led to the invention of the atomic clock, based on the tendency of atoms to jump between states of low and high energy when exposed to a very specific frequency of radiation, according to a story on cnbc.com. Those factors are so reliable that it has become the standard for atomic time.
In 2014, a new atomic clock that will lose only about one second every 300 million years was introduced by the National Institute of Standards. Currently, the International Atomic Time is a calculated to be an average of some 400 atomic clocks across the globe.
The leap second is necessary because the length of a day on Earth varies ever so slightly, due to influences such as the gravitational pull of the moon, sun and other planets, disturbing the Earth’s atmosphere and affecting the rotation. Some days the planet spins faster and some days, slower, but most scientists agree the rotation is gradually slowing over time.
That leads the atomic clocks to fall out of sync with the Universal Time, based on the rotation of the Earth. The two come together to make the international time standard known as Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), called a “compormise” by the IERS, necessitating the leap seconds. The last one was added in 2015.
Don’t think a second is very important? Just ask Coach Saban and the Tide fans.