Global timekeepers vote to eliminate the leap second by 2035

Scientists and government leaders gathering in France decided on Friday to eliminate leap seconds by 2035, according to the group in charge of world timekeeping. Leap seconds, like leap years, have been added to clocks on a regular basis throughout the last half-century to compensate for the discrepancy between accurate atomic time and the Earth's slowing rotation. While most people are unaffected by leap seconds, they can cause issues for a variety of systems that require an exact, uninterrupted flow of time, such as satellite navigation, software, telecommunication, trade, and even space travel.

It has posed problems for the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), which is in charge of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the globally agreed-upon standard for which the world's clocks are set. The BIPM's 59 member nations and other parties agreed to stop adding leap seconds by 2035 during the General Conference on Weights and Measures, which is convened generally every four years at Versailles Palace west of Paris.

According to Patrizia Tavella, head of the BIPM's time section, the historic decision will allow a continuous flow of seconds without the discontinuities now generated by sporadic leap seconds. The adjustment will go into effect by or before 2035. Russia voted against the resolution not on principle, but to postpone its implementation date until 2040. Other nations had requested a shorter term, such as 2025 or 2030, so 2035 was the best compromise.

The United States and France were two of the countries that paved the path for transformation. Tavella stressed that the link between UTC and Earth rotation is not lost. For the general population, nothing will change.

A leap minute?

Astronomers have traditionally timed seconds by measuring the Earth's rotation; but, the introduction of atomic clocks, which employ the frequency of atoms as their tick-tock mechanism, heralded a far more exact era of timekeeping. However, due to Earth's somewhat slower rotation, the two times are out of sync. Leap seconds were introduced in 1972 to bridge the gap, and 27 have been added at irregular intervals since the last in 2016. For the time being, leap seconds will be added as usual, according to the suggestion.

However, according to Judah Levine, a physicist at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, the discrepancy between atomic and astronomical time will be permitted to rise to a value greater than one second by 2035.

According to Levine, who spent years working with Tavella to design the resolution, the broader value has yet to be identified.

According to the resolution, negotiations will be conducted to create a plan by 2035 to define that value and how it would be managed.

Levine stated that it is critical to safeguard UTC time since it is managed by a worldwide community effort in the BIPM.

GPS time, a possible UTC alternative regulated by atomic clocks, is managed by the US military without global supervision, according to Levine.

Allowing the difference between Earth's rotation and atomic time to accumulate to a minute might be one option. It's impossible to determine how long it may take, but Levine believed it might take anywhere from 50 to 100 years. Rather than adding a leap minute to clocks, Levine recommended a "sort of smear" in which the final minute of the day takes two minutes.

He stated that the advancement of a clock slows but never stops.

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