Coordinated Universal Time

World map of current time zones

Coordinated Universal Time (abbreviated to UTC) is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is within about 1 second of mean solar time at 0° longitude;[1] it does not observe daylight saving time. For most purposes, UTC is considered interchangeable with Greenwich Mean Time (GMT),[2] but GMT is no longer precisely defined by the scientific community.

The first Coordinated Universal Time was informally adopted on 1 January 1960,[3] but the official abbreviation of UTC and the official English name of Coordinated Universal Time (along with the French equivalent), was not adopted until 1967.[4]

The system was adjusted several times, including a brief period where time coordination radio signals broadcast both UTC and "Stepped Atomic Time (SAT)" until a new UTC was adopted in 1970 and implemented in 1972. This change also adopted leap seconds to simplify future adjustments. This CCIR Recommendation 460 "stated that (a) carrier frequencies and time intervals should be maintained constant and should correspond to the definition of the SI second; (b) step adjustments, when necessary, should be exactly 1 s to maintain approximate agreement with Universal Time (UT); and (c) standard signals should contain information on the difference between UTC and UT."[3]

A number of proposals have been made to replace UTC with a new system that would eliminate leap seconds, and the decision to remove them altogether has been deferred until 2023.[5]

The current version of UTC is defined by International Telecommunications Union Recommendation (ITU-R TF.460-6), Standard-frequency and time-signal emissions[6] and is based on International Atomic Time (TAI) with leap seconds added at irregular intervals to compensate for the slowing of Earth's rotation.[7] Leap seconds are inserted as necessary to keep UTC within 0.9 seconds of universal time, UT1.[8] See the "Current number of leap seconds" section for the number of leap seconds inserted to date.

  1. ^ Guinot 2011, p. S181.
  2. ^ McCarthy & Guinot 2013.
  3. ^ a b "COORDINATED UNIVERSAL TIME (UTC) (CCTF/09-32)" (PDF). Bureau International des Poids et Mesures. p. 3. Retrieved 30 October 2016. 
  4. ^ McCarthy, D. (2 June 2009). "Note on Coordinated Universal Time (CCTF/09-32)" (PDF). p. 4. Retrieved 3 September 2017.  Bibliographic details from BIPM
  5. ^ "Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to retain "leap second"". www.itu.int. Retrieved 2017-07-12. 
  6. ^ ITU Radiocommunication Assembly 2002.
  7. ^ Time Service Dept. 2016.
  8. ^ National Institute of Standards and Technology 2012.

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