What in the World?

An increase in Earth’s rotation speed results in the shortest recorded day in Earth’s history.


Graphic by Raneen AlRammahi

Since 2016, scientists have recorded a noticeable increase in the rotation speed of the Earth. The normal length of one day on Earth is 86,400 seconds, or 24 hours. However, due to the increased rotation speed, scientists have recorded the shortest day in history: June 29, 2022. Instead of the usual 24-hour day, June 24 was 1.59 milliseconds shorter. This change may seem insignificant, but over time, this could become something much bigger for Earth itself. 


 This increase in speed doesn’t necessarily mean every day is shorter, but that some days are a few milliseconds shorter than usual. Scientists say that this decrease is normal, and isn’t necessarily a drastic change quite yet. This means that, if Earth continues to rotate faster, the anatomical clock scale used to measure time on Earth may have to change. Scientists have said that if the speeds increase further, we may even have to remove a second from the anatomical clock.


With the alarming news of the shortest day ever, many people have taken to sharing posts about it on social media, resulting in rumors and misleading information. They often make it seem like this is the end of the world or that days will feel noticeably shorter, but that is not the case. Considering that the increase is only by a couple of milliseconds every few years, it will not feel noticeable, and it is definitely not something people need to be worrying about.


People may be wondering what caused the increase, but it is hard to find an answer. The Earth’s speed can fluctuate because of the gravitational pull between the Earth and the moon, and its effect on the tides, which changes the Earth’s weather and climate. Some scientists believe this could be the reason. Other scientists believe that, due to the melting glaciers, the Earth has lost weight at the poles, making it spin faster.


Whatever the cause may be, this increase will not cause any drastic change on Earth any time soon. Scientists are studying the phenomenon closely, and any forecasted effects are quite minor, at least in the near future. As far as we and the scientific community can see, this level of increase in Earth’s rotation speed is not something to freak out about.