Variations in the Rotation of the Earth

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Science  01 Jun 1984:
Vol. 224, Issue 4652, pp. 957-961
DOI: 10.1126/science.224.4652.957


Variations in the earth's rotation (UT1) and length of day have been tracked at the submillisecond level by astronomical radio interferometry and laser ranging to the LAGEOS satellite. Three years of regular measurements reveal complex patterns of variations including UT1 fluctuations as large as 5 milliseconds in a few weeks. Comparison of the observed changes in length of day with variations in the global atmospheric angular momentum indicates that the dominant cause of changes in the earth's spin rate, on time scales from a week to several years, is the exchange of angular momentum between the atmosphere and the mantle. The unusually intense El Niño of 1982-1983 was marked by a strong peak in the length of day.