El Niño Puts the Brakes on the Planet

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Floods, sleet, winds, hail: El Niño is a one-weather-pattern set of biblical plagues. Now NASA scientists have discovered that the meteorological gremlin is also retarding the rotation of the Earth. By shifting wind patterns and ocean currents, El Niño has put such a drag on our planet that it's causing it to spin 300 to 400 microseconds slower than usual. Last summer when El Niño's power was at its peak, it was slowing the Earth's rotation by 600 microseconds (6/10,000 of a second). The combined time adds up to a tenth of a second, and could affect the Global Positioning System used by ships and the military. If you're wondering what to do with the longer day, don't sign up for trombone lessons yet: NASA says an opposite weather pattern -- La Niña -- will eventually speed the Earth back up.