World clocks may lose a second as Earth spins faster

If you don't like adjusting your clocks twice a year due to daylight savings time, then you're not going to like the latest news coming out of the science world. 

For the first time in history, world timekeepers may have to consider subtracting a second from our clocks in a few years because the planet is rotating a tad faster than it used to. Clocks may have to skip a second — called a "negative leap second" — around 2029, a study in the journal Nature said Wednesday.

"This is an unprecedented situation and a big deal," said study lead author Duncan Agnew, a geophysicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. "It’s not a huge change in the Earth’s rotation that’s going to lead to some catastrophe or anything, but it is something notable. It’s yet another indication that we’re in a very unusual time."

Scientists point to the ice melting at both of Earth’s poles that has been counteracting the planet's burst of speed and is likely to have delayed this global second of reckoning by about three years, Agnew said.

"We are headed toward a negative leap second," said Dennis McCarthy, retired director of time for the U.S. Naval Observatory who wasn’t part of the study. "It’s a matter of when."

Earth’s speeding up because its hot liquid core — "a large ball of molten fluid" — acts in unpredictable ways, with eddies and flows that vary, Agnew said.

Without the effect of melting ice, Earth would need that negative leap second in 2026 instead of 2029, Agnew calculated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.