Throughout history, people have considered a day as 24 hours in which the Earth completes its rotation around itself. On the other hand, although the exact reason is unknown, it has been found that the Earth’s rotation speed has increased in recent years.
Recently, scientists recorded the shortest day since they started using atomic clocks to measure the speed of rotation. On June 29, 2022, the Earth completed a day 1.59 milliseconds shorter than normal (1 millisecond is equal to 0.001 seconds). The previous record belonged to 2020 at 1.4602 milliseconds. None of us may have realized the difference, but this small acceleration was crucial for navigation, spaceflight, computer networks and astronomers.
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Earth’s Rotation Speed Increases
Under normal conditions, the Earth revolves around itself every 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds. However, we now realize that the Earth’s rotation is accelerating, albeit slowly. So what exactly does this mean for us? In fact, scientists will soon hold a meeting to find the answer to this question. The reason could be related to the Earth’s inner or outer layers, the oceans, tides or even processes in the climate. Scientists are not yet sure of the answer.
‘Negative leap seconds’, which means deleting seconds, has never been used before. But if the Earth continues to accelerate, we may need it. This would mean that our clocks would skip a second. This would potentially create problems for IT systems.
There are enough things to worry about in this life. Nuclear war, climate change, pandemics. The Earth spinning faster or slower shouldn’t be too high on your list of worries. Because it is unlikely to become a problem that will affect our lives any time soon. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at some scenarios of what might happen.
First, let’s start with the speed of the earth’s rotation. In fact, the earth does not rotate at the same speed for everyone. In other words, the speed of the earth’s rotation depends on your location. For someone living at the equator, the earth rotates at 1,669 kilometers per hour. However, as you move away from the equator, the speed of the earth’s rotation gradually decreases. The poles are the points where the earth’s rotation is slowest. Now let’s start our scenario.
What happens if the Earth rotates twice as fast?
One of the first things you will probably notice is weight loss. In fact, even now, at different points on Earth, your weight is expressed in different numbers. For example, someone who weighs 45 kilograms at the poles will notice that they weigh 156 grams less if they are weighed at the equator. As the Earth’s speed increases, this difference will increase even more.
Centrifugal force from the Earth’s rotation is constantly trying to pull you away from the planet. At the moment, gravity is fortunately quite strong and keeps us glued to the ground. Where the Earth rotates faster, there is more centrifugal force. This reduces gravity’s grip on you. More speed means less grip.
Once we understand the weight loss, the second change we will observe is the shortening of our days. The faster the Earth rotates, the shorter our days become. If the Earth’s rotation increases by 1.5 kilometers per hour, a day will be shorter by about 1.5 minutes.
Because the change would be so small, our bodies would probably not feel it. But doubling the speed of the Earth’s rotation would mean that a day would last 12 hours. This means that a year now has to be 730 days long.
Of course, our first task would be to create a new calendar. But the real problem would be adapting our body clocks, not the calendar. Because in order to adapt to this new system, we would have to sleep 4 hours a night instead of 8 hours. Of course, other problems would arise for the plants and animals that would have to adapt to this new system. After all, changing our natural rhythms that we have gradually developed over millions of years would be a problem in itself.
That’s Not All The Problems With The Accelerating World!
If the Earth’s rotation slowly accelerates, it speeds up the atmosphere and increases the intensity of the daily winds. If the Earth were not rotating at all, winds from the North Pole would blow in a straight line towards the equator and vice versa. But because the Earth is rotating, the path of the winds is moving eastwards.
And if the Earth rotates faster, the winds will shift more to the east. This would increase the intensity of hurricanes. But that’s not the worst thing that could happen in a doubling scenario.
The extra speed would mean higher water levels around the equator. For example, if the Earth spins 150 kilometers per hour faster, water levels around the equator would rise by 35-40 cm. If the Earth spins at twice the speed, countries around the equator, such as Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Kenya, Indonesia, Indonesia and many others, could be flooded. Since this extra water would come from the polar regions, where centrifugal force is lower, the Arctic Ocean would be much shallower.
These are not the only possible disasters for the equatorial region. The second problem is moisture in the air. Because of the humidity, the region will be shrouded in dense fog and clouds, and it will rain continuously, as if it needs more water. In addition, if the Earth’s rotation speed increases, it will seriously affect the mobility of fault lines. As you can imagine, this will increase earthquakes and volcanic activity.
The Earth’s rotation rate is actually constantly changing
The Earth will probably never spin twice as fast. But about 4.4 billion years ago, the Earth was spinning at just 4 hours a day. As recently as the age of the dinosaurs, a day on the planet was just 22 hours long. Since the formation of the Moon, Earth’s rotation has slowed by about 6.1 km/s every 10 million years. This was due to the Moon’s gravitational pull on our planet.
But now we see that the slowdown is over. And we will probably soon find out why.