Melting polar ice is slowing the Earth’s rotation, with possible consequences for timekeeping


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Global warming has slightly slowed the Earth’s rotation — and it could affect how we measure time.

A study published Wednesday found that the melting of polar ice — an accelerating trend driven primarily by human-caused climate change — has caused the Earth to spin less quickly than it would otherwise.

The author of the study, Duncan Agnew, a geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, said that as ice at the poles melts, it changes where the Earth’s mass is concentrated. The change, in turn, affects the planet’s angular velocity.