UAE to add 'leap second' to standard time on July 1

UTC is adjusted occasionally with a one-second step known as a 'leap second'

Knowledge story, The Knowledge

The Emirates Metrology Institute, the reference body for measurements in the UAE, has announced that a leap second will be added to UAE standard time just before 4am on July 1.

The move aims to conform with other timing centres around the world, which will also add a leap second at the same time to adjust for the slight differences in time between highly accurate atomic clocks and the rotation of the globe.

Dr. Helal Al Kaabi, executive director of Emirates Metrology Institute, said in comments published by news agency WAM: "Our latest move to add a leap second to UAE standard time follows a decision by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, based at the Paris Observatory, in January 2015 to add a leap second to Coordinated Universal Time at the end of June this year."

Until 1968, the length of the second was based on the rotation of the Earth by observing mean solar time at astronomical observatories. However, the rotation speed of the Earth fluctuates unpredictably, and has been found to even slow down due to friction caused by the ocean tides, WAM said.

Today, more than 400 atomic clocks in around 70 institutes are combined to form the international time scale, called Coordinated Universal Time or UTC.

These atomic clocks are significantly better at keeping time than the rotation of the Earth. The variations in the Earth's rotation cause the mean solar day to diverge gradually from the extremely stable UTC time scale.

To prevent this difference from building up to more than 0.9 seconds, UTC is adjusted occasionally with a one-second step known as a "leap second".

Since the leap second procedure was introduced in 1972, a total of 25 leap seconds have been needed.

The Emirates Metrology Institute was launched by Abu Dhabi Quality and Conformity Council, to enable accurate measurements within manufacturing, research and environment sectors in the UAE.

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