Monday, July 11, 2016

Leap-Year to be Even Longer w/ Added Leap-Second!

Time display of the last Leap-Second, from the < >
Internet web site of the National Institute of Standards and Technology,
U.S. Department of Commerce. This time was Coordinated Universal
Time (UTC), which translated to 7:59:60 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving
Time (EDT) on 2015 June 30.
(Image Sources: , By US Government / NIST - Screen Grab from web
display of, Public Domain,
php?curid=41453932 )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Every four years (usually), the calendar year is longer by 24 hours, than the previous three years. However this Leap-Year of 2016 will be even longer, by one second, with the addition of a Leap-Second at the end of the year.

On July 6, the U.S. Naval Observatory announced that a Leap-Second would be added to the civil time scale on the evening of 2016 December 31 at 23:59:60 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) / 6:59:60 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). Leap-Seconds are added, occasionally when needed, at either the end of June or the end of December, or both.

Since the first Leap-Second was added in June of 1972, 26 Leap-Seconds have been added over the years. Leap-Seconds added in both June and December of the same year have occurred only once, thus far: in 1972, the year Leap-Seconds commenced. The last Leap-Second was added on 2015 June 30 at 23:59:60 UTC / 7:59:60 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT).

Leap-Seconds have been added, periodically, to respond to the continual slowing of the rotation rate of the Earth, so the world's clocks do not vary significantly from the normal sunrise and sunset times throughout the year. Tidal forces from the Moon (and to a lesser extent, the Sun), in addition to the well-known ocean tides, work to slow the Earth's rotation rate. Geologic conditions that change the distribution of the Earth's mass, such as the movement of the Earth's crust relative to its core, are a contributing factor to slowing of the rotation rate.

In theory, a negative Leap-Second, retracting one second at the end of June or December, is also possible. This would occur if the Earth's rotation rate started accelerating. However, there has never been a need for a negative Leap-Second.

The slowing of the Earth's rotation rate is not consistent, and hence, Leap-Seconds are irregularly spaced and unpredictable. No Leap-Seconds were added between the Leap-Second of 1998 December 31 and the Leap-Second of 2005 December 31, while Leap-Seconds were added each year from 1972 to 1979 (including the two Leap-Seconds in 1972). The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), based in Frankfurt, Germany, usually decides to install a Leap-Second in the time scale about six months in advance of implementation.

Of course, the Earth's rotation rate does not suddenly slow down by one second, at certain intervals. The Earth's rotation rate has been continually slowing down, and this continues to be monitored by scientists.

Currently, the Earth's rotation rate, measured as UT1 (Universal Time-1 - Mean Solar Time at the Prime Meridian in Greenwich, England), is behind scientists' more consistent UTC (derived from International Atomic Time, determined by atomic clocks) by two-tenths of a second (clock correction known as DUT1, which is UT1 minus UTC). So, for the civil time scale to stay more consistent with the Earth's rotation rate, a Leap-Second is needed to slow down UTC by one second.

If the Leap-Second occurred today (2016 July 11), this would make the Earth's rotation rate in advance of UTC by eight-tenths of a second. Then, it may take a couple years for the Earth to slow down enough, to the point where UT1 would again be behind UTC and another Leap-Second would be needed.

Of course, by December 31, UT1 may (or may not) actually be five-tenths or six-tenths of a second behind UTC. UTC is never allowed to advance more than nine-tenths of a second ahead of UT1, although usually a Leap-Second is added long before that could happen.

Leap-Seconds have proven to be a problem for computers. Hence, in 2005 there was a proposal to eliminate Leap-Seconds, possibly replacing them with Leap-Hours as a way to keep the civil time scale in-sync with the Earth's rotation rate. However, this issue has been quite controversial among scientists and government officials, so the decision to make any change has been delayed.

Precise time signals, which will include the Leap-Second on December 31 as well as the daily DUT correction, are now provided by government agencies via radio, telephone, and the Internet. This includes agencies such as the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) [originally known as the National Bureau of Standards (NBS)] of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada. Earlier in the 19th century, the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh provided precise time signals to the railroads and some cities via the telegraph.

Radio time signals, with voice announcements each minute, are provided by three short-wave radio stations in North America: WWV in Fort Collins, Colorado and WWVH in Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii, both operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and CHU in Ottawa, Ontario, operated by the National Research Council of Canada. Radio-controlled clocks automatically receive the precise time from NIST-operated, long-wave radio station WWVB in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

More on the Leap-Second -
Link 1 >>>
Link 2 >>>
Link 3 >>>

More on Universal Time (including UT1 & UTC):
Link >>>

More on Coordinated Universal Time:
Link >>>

More on International Atomic Time:
Link >>>

More on precise, international radio time services ---

WWV (SW), Fort Collins, Colorado (Voice announcements of precise time):
Link >>>

WWVH (SW), Kekaha, Kauai, Hawaii (Voice announcements of precise time):
Link >>>

CHU (SW), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Voice announcements of precise time):
Link >>>

WWVB (LW), Fort Collins, Colorado (For Radio-Controlled Clocks only):
Link >>>

More on precise time via telegraph in the 19th century, from Pittsburgh's Allegheny Observatory:
Link >>>

Related Blog Posts ---

"'Leap Second' Tue. Evening Due to Slowing Earth Rotation Rate." 2015 June 30.

Link >>>

"Slowing Earth Rotation Rate Necessitates June 'Leap Second'." 2015 Jan. 27.

Link >>>


"Centennial: New Allegheny Observatory Dedication." 2012 Aug. 28.

Link >>>

"Second Added to All Clocks Saturday Evening by Scientists." 2012 June 29.

Link >>>

"End of the "Leap Second"?" 2012 Jan. 17.

Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2016 July 11.

                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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  1. It's gonna take me longer to type this Memo,then the leap second they added today but thank for sharing

    1. The Leap-Second will be added as the very last second of 2016, before the stroke of Midnight which will mark the beginning of 2017, using the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) time scale.

  2. It's gonna take me longer to type this Memo,then the leap second they added today but thank for sharing

    1. The Leap-Second will be added as the very last second of 2016, before the stroke of Midnight which will mark the beginning of 2017, using the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) time scale.

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