[ntp:questions] A Suggestion For Abolishing the Leap Second

Quadibloc jsavard at ecn.ab.ca
Sat Jun 2 22:08:18 UTC 2007

jlevine wrote:
> As I mentioned in my previous note, this was one of the
> reasons that a method similar to what you are proposing
> was abandoned in the early 1970s. For what it is worth, my personal
> opinion is that changing the length of a second in any manner would be
> completely unacceptable to the frequency community and it simply won't
> be accepted.

That may be. I believe that what I am proposing is very different from
what was being done prior to 1972, but it is possible that before the
transition to atomic time with leap seconds was made, the changes in
the length of a second were made in a structured and disciplined
manner such as I now propose, so this has been tried and failed. I had
thought that the time scale had just been kept very close to mean
solar time prior to 1972.

> > This means that the discrepancy between the modified
> > UTC and mean solar time would be allowed to be somewhat larger than
> > 0.9 seconds.
>     This would not be a trivial change. Broadcast services (NIST radio
> station WWVB,
> for example) transmit the current dUT1 parameter as specified by the
> International
> Telecommunications Union (ITU). The format does not allow a value
> greater than
> 0.9 seconds. If this difference is allowed to exceed +/- 0.9 s then
> something has to
> change. Either the station would stop transmitting the dUT1 parameter,
> or it would be
> transmitted modulo 1 second or something else. None of these changes
> is impossible, but they could not be implemented without discussons by
> the appropriate
> group in the ITU. In fact, the leap second question is already being
> discussed there.
> Although no formal decision has been reached, my guess is that nothing
> will change and
> the current system will continue as is. However, this is just my
> private guess.

That could be. Since the idea of abolishing leap seconds altogether is
being very seriously proposed, though, there seems to be some demand
for change; despite the fact that it would take a long time for such a
time scale to cause real problems, I do find that proposal
unacceptable, so I'm trying to provide an alternative.

Basically, I think that the main problem I am avoiding is this: people
with quartz crystal timepieces that set them regularly by WWV or some
other source of accurate time still also have to take the leap second
into account (given their application requires such accurate
synchronization, of course); my scheme limits the need to take action
based on the number of leap seconds for a given year to those who are
using much more accurate timekeeping equipment, thereby reducing the
possibility for chaos based on human error.

John Savard

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