Because of the faster rotation, a leap second will not be added to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on Dec. 31, making 2003 the fifth consecutive year without such an adjustment.
Tom O'Brian, a physicist and chief of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Time and Frequency Division, told Discovery News that the five leap-less years suggest the rotation of the Earth has exhibited an increased rate since 1999.
O'Brian speculates that the apparent trend of Earth's speedier rotation could be due to climate change.
"We observe effects on rotation from season to season, and Earth does speed up slightly during warmer months," he told Discovery News. "Most of our land mass is in the Northern hemisphere, and as some water evaporates and falls as snow, it is as though Earth is an ice skater holding her hands up as she completes a spin, which can increase the rate of rotation.