Leap second decision put back to 2015

20 Jan

An international committee called to decide whether to abolish the ‘leap second’ has pushed the decision back to 2015 after failing to reach a consensus.


The Earth’s rotation is irregular and is slowing down by two thousandths of a second per day

Members of the International Telecommunications Union, which sets the world’s clocks, met in Geneva to rule whether or not to continue using the method of adding additional seconds every few years to keep our time in sync with the Earth’s rotation.

A host of countries, including America and France, favour abolishing the method which has been used since 1972 and involves inserting an extra second every year or two to compensate for the Earth’s gradually slowing movement.

But others led by Britain oppose the change, saying that it would forever break the link between our concept of time and the rising and setting of the Sun.

Failure to reach any consensus meant that the decision was put off until 2015, with another leap second due to be added on June 30, 2012.

To stop using the additional ‘leap seconds’ would keep us strictly on atomic time – measured by incredibly precise reactions in caesium atoms.

But because the Earth’s rotation is irregular and is slowing down by two thousandths of a second per day, this would cause us to drift slowly away from astronomical time.

Experts fear that once this link is broken it could never be restored because although the Earth’s timekeeping systems are built to accommodate the occasional leap second, adding a leap minute or hour to global time would be virtually impossible.

It would also spell the end for Greenwich Mean Time, which is measured by the time at which the Sun crosses the Greenwich Meridian and was adopted in Britain in 1847.


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