Brace yourselves: 2016, the year that came from the depths of the seventh circle of hell itself, will last just a little longer than expected. Scientists are adding a leap second to the already horrendous 366 days (remember we had 29 days in February!) of this year.
According to the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, or IERS, an additional second will be tacked on to the end of December by the world’s scientists in order to reconcile a discrepancy.
See, there are two major standards of time used by scientists to keep track of when it is in the world. The IERS maintains something called Universal Time, which is based off of the planet’s location around the sun and relative to other stars in close to the solar system. But there’s also another standard — International Atomic Time which is based off the ticks of a few hundred atomic clocks.
In order to reconcile these two standards, scientists use something called Coordinated Universal Time — which basically tries to scale Universal Time using International Atomic Time. Unfortunately, the Earth’s rotation is not exactly a clean process. It can sometimes speed up or slow down, and these irregularities make it difficult to manage Coordinated Universal Time accurately. So in order make sure this standard deviates no more than 0.9 seconds from Universal Time, the IERS is adding a leap second to December.
This is certainly not the first time we’ve had to deal with a leap second. The most recent case was actually in June 2015.
In any case, there’s nothing you need to do yourself — no setting clocks forward by a second or anything like that. Just keep your loved ones close, because who the fuck knows what kind of awful shit the universe is going to squeeze into that single added second.