UK scientists against replacing GMT with atomic time

Last Updated 04 May 2018, 04:46 IST

British scientists are backing the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in the face of its possible replacement by atomic time during an international meeting that will be held on the issue next week.

The need for 'leap seconds,' which are introduced to global timekeeping systems every few years to ensure that the time followed is in sync with the rotation of the Earth, will be eliminated if atomic time is adopted, the Telegraph reported.

This would mean that about every 80 years, we would move around a minute away from GMT, it said, adding that a problem may arise if atomic clocks deviate from astronomical time.

"We have had leap seconds for the last 40 years so we can handle them, but there is no equipment in the world that could handle a leap minute or hour ... it could be 200 years down the line but it would be just impossible," Peter Whibberley of the National Physical Laboratory, who will represent the UK at next week's meeting, said.

GMT was first adopted in Britain in 1847 and used around the globe before the introduction of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), essentially the same measurement, in 1972.

"One you break that link UTC would just drift away from GMT and you would have to refer to it as UTC.

"The problem is, once you have broken that link there is no way to restore it, it is just too difficult," he said.

A decision on the switch will be taken by representatives of 190 countries at a meeting of the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva next week.

(Published 14 January 2012, 16:19 IST)

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