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Revolution of Timekeeping Postponed

The World Radiocommunication Conference has deferred a decision to revolutionize global timekeeping by abolishing the leap second.

Illustration image

Leap seconds keep us aligned with the Earth.

©bigstockphoto.com/janaka Dharmasena

Business as Usual Until 2023

The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) concluded that more research is needed on the impact of such a measure. The findings will be considered by the conference in 2023, so leap seconds will be used at least for eight more years.

Official Press Release (www.itu.int)

Can We Do Without Leap Seconds?

Removing leap seconds would mean a major change of our global timekeeping system. Local times around the world are currently based on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), a global time standard that has been used in its present form since 1972. It is primarily based on atomic time, however, it uses leap seconds to adjust to variations in the Earth's rotation.

Leap seconds are added about every 18 months. The last leap second was at 23:59:60 on June 30, 2015.

Pros and cons of leap seconds

Not the First Time

The WRC had already considered the matter at their last session in 2012 without coming to a final conclusion.

The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference is held every three to four years in Geneva, Switzerland.