January 1, 2008 Geophysicists have identified the very real physical mechanism that can lengthen or shorten the amount of time the earth takes to complete one rotation. During La Nina the temperature of the Pacific Ocean cools, which causes the jet stream to slow down. The principle of angular momentum requires that something must adjust to make up for the change in energy, thus the earth spins faster to compensate. This means that it takes less time to complete one day – but the difference is no more than a millisecond each day. A change this small can still be enough to impact precise navigation measurements.
- El Niño-Southern Oscillation
- Atmospheric circulation
- List of Category 5 Pacific hurricanes
- 1997 Pacific typhoon season
We are currently in a La Nina event. Confused about the difference between El Nino and La Nina? We know it impacts our weather -- but it will also impact our time.
If it feels like you just don’t have enough time in the day -- you’re not alone. But it's more than just feeling like you are losing time; physicists have found that we really are losing time thanks to La Nina.
“The Earth's rotation is affected,” Jean Dickey, Ph.D., research Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Ivanhoe.
We are currently in a La Nina event -- meaning the pacific ocean temps in the tropics are cooler which slows down the jet stream in the atmosphere -- to compensate -- the earth speeds up. The result -- for the next few months, we are going to lose an entire millisecond a day.
But for every La Nina that loses us time, an El Nino -- with its warm ocean temps and faster jet stream -- gains us time.
"So between a warm event and a cold event, they balance each other out,” Dr. Dickey said.
So don't worry too much about making up for lost time!
ABOUT EL NINO: El Niño is a cyclical warming of the ocean waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific that generally occurs every three to seven years, usually around the holidays. It is associated with changes in air pressure and the movement of high-level winds, and can affect weather worldwide. In the United States, En Niño normally results in warmer-than-normal temperatures across the northern and western states. Wetter conditions result in the south, with dry weather across the Ohio Valley and Pacific Northwest. El Niño typically peaks during the winter months. It alternates with La Niña, the cooling of ocean waters in the same region of the Pacific.