matatu blog

Brian writes about computing

Leap Seconds

Dec 31, 2018

Is there a leap second in January, 2019? (spoiler: no)

Tonight we count down from 10 to 0 at midnight and bring in the New Year.

But will it be 2019 when we reach 0? What if there is a leap second?

Quick -- let's check the list of leap seconds provided by the IETF.

No -- it looks good, January 1, 2017 was the last one, and that list is good until June 28, 2019.

Two years ago, things were different.

At "midnight" (UTC), it became 2017.

~ $ perl6 -e 'say"2017-01-01T00:00:00Z").year'

But actually, TWO seconds had passed since 11:59:59 the night (and year) before!

~ $ perl6 -e 'say"2017-01-01T00:00:00Z") -"2016-12-31T23:59:59Z")'

At the instant that it became 2017, there was a leap second. The value returned by now would have indicated that.

Tonight will be fine though:

~ $ perl6 -e 'say"2019-01-01T00:00:00Z") -"2018-12-31T23:59:59Z")'

If we want to be more explicit, we can turn a DateTime into an Instant and back again by using posix and from-posix -- the latter takes a boolean value as a second parameter to indicate whether or not leap seconds should be taken into account.

my $date ="2017-01-01T00:00:00Z");
my $instant = Instant.from-posix: $date.posix, True;
my $instant2 = Instant.from-posix: $date.posix;
say $instant.DateTime.year;
say $instant2.DateTime.year;

I wonder how many languages have native support for leap seconds?

It looks like not many. Which is too bad. If leap seconds catch you off guard, weird things can happen.


  • Leap seconds happen once in a while. When they do, two seconds elapse between two datetimes which appear to differ by only one second.
  • Programming languages should support leap seconds.
  • There is no leap second in January, 2019.
  • Happy New Year!