Sunday, December 21, 2014

Global warming changing the earth's rotation speed

I greatly admire him for being willing him to admit to a mistake, and correcting it.

Updated by Joseph Stromberg on December 21, 2014

Correction: Tonight will not be the longest night in the history of Earth. It was in 1972.

Correction: This article originally said that, due to the rotation of the Earth gradually slowing down over time, this winter solstice would feature the longest night ever.

I got this wrong. The Earth's rotation is gradually slowing on an extremely long timescale, but on a shorter year-to-year basis, geologic factors can alter the speed as well.

Data indicates that the rotation speed has actually sped up slightly over the past forty years, likely due to melting of ice at the poles and the resulting redistribution of the Earth's mass. So, as far as we know, the longest night in Earth's history likely occurred in 1972. I apologize for the error. Thanks to Steve Allen and Ryan Hardy for pointing it out.


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