A lot of people, myself included, can’t wait for 2016 to be over so we can start hating 2017 but there’s some bad news, 2016 is going to be longer than most years.
2016 will be a whole one second longer than most years because we’re about to experience a leap second this New Year’s Eve, which is like a much shorter version of a leap year.
The reason for this added extra season of torment is because the Earth’s orbit isn’t perfectly circular it’s more egg shaped, and as it circles The Sun this wibbly-wobbly orbit can cause the Earth’s rotation to slow down or even speed up.
Other factors include the movement of the Earth’s crust and mantle. Interestingly on the day of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and consequently Boxing Day tsunami the Earth lost 2.68 microseconds because of the quake.
The thing is, because we base the time on the Earth’s rotation (one full rotation every 24 hours) researchers sometimes deem it necessary to add a leap second to keep clocks on Earth as accurate as possible.
Since scientists first noticed this variance in the Earth’s orbit back in 1972 there have been 26 leap seconds inserted around the world, or roughly speaking every 18 months.
Of course 2016 had to be a second longer than necessary. Can we not just make 2017 start minus one second earlier?