The Leap Second Has Jumped the Shark

Leap seconds, used for a half century to synchronize the Earth’s rotation with a tomic clocks, are being phased out. That’s a boon for tech giants which might be apprehensive in regards to the adjustment’s technical dangers.

Timekeeping authorities from world wide voted Friday at a gathering of the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) to cease utilizing the temporal tweak.

“The…introduction of leap seconds creates discontinuities that risk causing serious malfunctions in critical digital infrastructure,” together with satellite tv for pc navigation programs, telecommunications and power transmission, BIPM stated of its reasoning for the transfer.

The change will take impact no later than 2035, although it is attainable the group might part it in sooner. The new coverage is designed to final not less than a century.

Timekeeping with this degree of precision might sound like an arcane scientific area, nevertheless it truly issues quite a bit in our digital age, through which computer systems should always monitor duties and ensure actions happen in the proper sequence. Ticking digital clocks are a basis for every part we do on-line.

In August, Facebook pushed for an finish to the leap second, warning the transition might have “devastating effect on the software relying on timers or schedulers.” It’s not alone: a committee related to BIPM surveyed measurement, scientific and know-how specialists and located the identical view.


It’s not an idle fear. The leap second change triggered an enormous Reddit outage in 2012, in addition to associated issues at Mozilla, LinkedIn, Yelp and airline reserving service Amadeus. In 2017, a leap second glitch at Cloudflare knocked a fraction of the community infrastructure firm’s prospects’ servers offline. Cloudflare’s software program, evaluating two clocks, calculated that point had gone backward however could not correctly deal with that outcome.

Earlier leap seconds have been added to compensate for the Earth’s slowing rotation, however there’s proof the speed is now rushing up. That would imply a leap second must be eliminated, and that is by no means been tried.

Although the leap second not will routinely be added when Earth time disagrees with Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the BIPM vote leaves the door open for changes. It advisable forming a coverage for adjusting clocks at some as but unspecified time hole.

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