The year 2017 isn’t coming as soon as you think. In fact, it will be exactly one second late. Or 2016 will drag on a leap second longer.
On Dec. 31, 2016, the international time keeping community (yes, it exists!) will tack an additional second, known as a leap second, on to the last minute of the year.
Because The Earth doesn’t keep perfect time, timekeepers occasionally insert another second or two to match Earth’s rotation and the precise atomic clocks.
U.S. Naval Observatory’s Geoff Chester says the tides’ interaction with the moon and other factors, including warmer, denser waters from El Nino, cause Earth to take longer to go full circle each day.
Although it’s no big deal for most of us to adjust to an additional atomic second in our year, it is a much bigger pain for people who run computer networks. In the past, tech companies like Google, Reddit and LinkedIn have all run into problems because of the addition of a leap second.
Google detailed in a blog post how it plans to stretch-out 20 hours’ worth of seconds to build-up the additional time – instead of adding a single leap second on the evening of December 31st.
NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel notes:
“Leap seconds have crashed airline reservation systems. They’re believed to have briefly shut down Russia’s GPS satellite system, and there’s potential for even greater mischief as things like financial trading become ever more precise in their use of time.”
This will be the first leap second since July 1, 2015.
For the countdown tonight, remember:
“… three, two, one, zero.” And then “Happy New Year!”