Is Earth spinning faster?
Source: Getty Images

If Earth Is Spinning Faster in 2021, What Does That Mean for Us?


Apr. 20 2021, Published 3:24 p.m. ET

We all know that in any given day, planet Earth completes one complete rotation — this is the way it's always been. As a result, we all sort of assume that the Earth rotates at about the same rate every year. In true 2021 fashion, however, scientists are theorizing that Earth somehow spun faster than normal last year. But if Earth is spinning faster, what does that ultimately mean for humanity?

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is earth spinning faster
Source: Getty Images

Is the earth spinning faster?

We’re sorry to be the bearers of weird news, but yes, according to LiveScience, the Earth is indeed spinning faster. This means the days in 2020 were relatively shorter, astronomically speaking, than they were the previous year. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Normally, Earth takes about 86,400 seconds to spin on its axis, or make a full one-day rotation, though it has been known to fluctuate here and there.

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Has the earth ever spun faster before?

According to TimeandDate, the last time every day of a year was shorter than 86,400 seconds was back in 1937. In 2020, that record was broken 28 times. That’s right, dear readers, 2020 is the year that keeps on giving. LiveScience reports that the planet has been slowing down significantly over the past few decades, but these additional changes are somewhat unusual, to say the least. 

is earth spinning faster
Source: Getty Images
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Why would the earth spin faster?

According to research conducted in 2003, certain factors can have an impact on how fast or slow the Earth spins. These factors aren’t celestial in origin, as one might believe, but are the result of weather patterns and other atmospheric changes on the planet itself. The winds, shifts in atmospheric pressure, even severe storms like El Niño, are all strong enough to affect the planet’s rotation.

This could mean climate change may impact the rotation of the planet. In fact, according to New Scientist, there is some proven correlation between global warming and a faster rotation. This is due to melting ice caps and rising oceans, which creates a change in the planet's distribution of mass. 

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is earth spinning faster
Source: Getty Images

Is it bad that the Earth is spinning faster?

The majority of us probably didn't notice 2020 was a little shorter than other years, but it could result in small changes to the length of the days in 2021. According to USA Today, each day may wind up being 0.05 milliseconds shorter. This translates to a new leap second, a concept first noted in the 1950s when scientists began studying the changes via an atomic clock. 

We will probably not feel the change this year, either, though there will be some industries and systems that will experience minor issues. USA Today reports that some computer systems, specifically in the areas of GPS navigation, spaceflight, satellites, stock market, and those used by astronomers will be impacted in some way by these shortened days. Even there, though, the impact should not be severe enough to cause any serious problems. 

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