Australia to Move North by Almost Six Feet on New Year’s Day

“A ustralia will suddenly move 5.9 feet to the north on New Year’s Day. No, this is not due to plate tectonics, a doomsday prophecy or any other sudden catastrophe. When you boil it down, Australia will move on New Year’s Day due to a geographic accounting correction, not some strange geologic anomaly.”

Australia to Move North by Almost Six Feet on New Year’s Day

The idea is similar to a leap year, according to this article written by Trevor Nace for Forbes. The reason why leap year occurs every four years is because the Earth completes its orbit around the sun every 365.242189 days. Notice that the .242189 is quite close to .25 — or one quarter of a day. Four of those quarters roughly equals a full day; so we add that extra day every four years to resynchronize with our calculation of time.

Technically, Australia will not suddenly move 5.9 feet to the north. Rather — because of the constant yet glacial movement of plates all over our planet — the continent has actually been slowly moving all along; but that movement has not been updated since 1994. Due to a plate tectonic accounting correction similar to the leap year, the correction will be 1.8 meters; or 5.9 feet. This update will position Australia not to where it is now; but rather, to where it will be in the year 2020. “The reason for the overcorrection is to have the coordinates perfectly aligned when the new real time coordinate system is up and running. As you can imagine, stationary coordinates on a moving tectonic plate is tricky, you’re always playing catch up.”

Time is Amazing

I have often wondered why time is not “more accurate” — why not simply split out the measurements of years more evenly so that we never need to have a leap year, for example — but one answer could be that different measurements are used for different aspects of time. For example, the orbit of the Earth around its Sun is what measures a year; while one complete rotation of the Earth itself is how a day is measured.

What fascinates me is the definition of a second as a unit of time. Ask someone for the definition of a second; and he or she will most likely tell you that a second is one-sixtieth of a minute — when the official definition of a second is “the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom” as according to the eighth edition of the brochure of The International System of Units.

Please allow me to pause for a duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom, as I fear that I may be entering Le Chic Geek territory here…

…but there are bound to be inconsistencies when using multiple measurements of time, as with the three aforementioned examples. Did you know that leap seconds are added to the year every so often? In fact, a leap second is scheduled to be added to coordinated universal time at the end of this year when Australia “moves” almost six feet to the north.

Time is amazing.

Summary

Our world is constantly changing even though that fact may not seem so to you and I; and our measurements of it have to be adjusted and updated every so often.

That more and more frequent flier loyalty programs are based on revenue spent instead of distance flown is a crying shame. I could have used that 5.9 feet of mileage credit the next time I visit Australia…

…no, wait: Australia is moving north; so unless my flight arrives via Antarctica, I will lose — not gain — that mileage. Never mind.

I hope that pilots do not miss the runways when they land airplanes at airports all around Australia once 2017 starts — but according to that old saying: the Tasmanian devil is in the details.

Imagery ©2016 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2016 courtesy of Google Maps.

6 thoughts on “Australia to Move North by Almost Six Feet on New Year’s Day”

  1. Adam says:

    less miles :0

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Leave it to the airlines to perhaps one day attempt to figure this one out, Adam.

      The horror…

  2. laptoptravel says:

    Umm, you stated in your preface “No, this is not due to plate tectonics” but in actuality that is precisely the reasoning for the adjustment as you point out with “Rather — because of the constant yet glacial movement of plates all over our planet”

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      The preface was a quote from the article to which I referenced; and not something I wrote.

      In other words, I agree with you.

      Thank you, laptoptravel.

  3. Ven says:

    How measurements are determined is fun. My favorite is a meter, or the distance light travels (1/speed of light) seconds.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I must admit that I just learned something new.

      Thank you, Ven.

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