Officials from the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems (IERS) have announced that an additional second will be implemented on June 30 to reflect an inconsistency between the atomic clock and the rotation of the Earth.
The agency said the extra second, or leap second, is needed because the Earth has slowed in its rotation, making the adjustment in time necessary. Leap seconds are often added during the months of June or December.
According to the IERS, there have been 25 cases since 1972 where a leap second was added.
The leap second this year will be added once the world clock reaches midnight universal time. This change will take effect at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) for people living in the United States.
Clocks from all over the world synchronized to the standard civil time will show the additional second as ":60."
The planned implementation of the leap second has caused concern among different Internet companies because some computer programs are not designed to accommodate the additional second. These companies fear that the change might potentially create problems with their systems.
In order to avoid issues with the leap second, Amazon Web Services said it will launch "alternative solutions." The company plans to adjust its AWS clocks for a short period, which would reflect a different time compared to the standard civil time.
In 2012, the IERS implemented a leap second, which caused problems for a number of computer software. Several websites, such as LinkedIn, Yelp, StumbleUpon and Reddit, were brought down because they were not able to handle the change.
Qantas Airways' computer system was shut down for hours, leaving airline employees manually checking in passengers.
Problems with the additional second occur because most computer systems operate based on a program called Unix. This software was developed in 1970, two years before leap seconds were created.
Computers synchronize their time according to the IERS' network to make sure they are updated. When leap seconds are added, however, the IERS network informs computers that the last minute of the day will have 61 seconds. This confuses the programming of computers based on Unix.
To fix this issue, Google has developed safety measures after several of its systems were affected by the leap second added in 2005.
The company's "workarounds" involve adding a couple of milliseconds to the clocks of its servers, enough to handle the additional second.
Photo: Sabroso Itiman | Flickr