Earth may be in the early stages of a magnetic pole reversal as we speak, at least that's what an article from LiveScience suggests. LiveScience asserted that, based upon geologic records, there have been several flip-flops of the Earth's magnetic field and the last actual magnetic pole reversal on our planet occurred about 780,000 years ago. If we are indeed in the midst of a pole reversal right now, it means that currently, the magnetic field may be weaker due to the transition. The weakening of the Earth's magnetic field can create some disastrous scenarios but perhaps not what most would expect.
* There are plenty of theories -- many valid, many crackpot science -- about pole reversal effects upon the Earth. From tectonic plates dramatically crashing and creating megaquakes to supervolcanoes waking up and everything in between.
* The theory that pole shift will cause massive earthquakes around the world does not jive with known scientific findings. According to the USGS, there is no evidence to support the idea that magnetic field variations accompany seismic activity.
* According to studies cited by LiveScience, though, the most likely disastrous effects we would see during the process of realignment when the magnetic field is weaker would be medical, ecological and technological.
* Technologically, the weakening of the magnetic field in the midst of pole reversal can be disastrous. Imagine massive solar storms bombarding the Earth and a magnetic field too weak to protect us. What happens when strong solar storms hit? Radio blackouts, communication interruptions and on a large scale, fried technology, leaving a technology-dependent world in the Dark Ages. Imagine it -- dead satellites, fried electrical grids, no Internet, no cell phone service; it might not equal doomsday but for a society that lives and breathes technology, it would seem as though the world had ended.
* As far as disaster planning goes, preparing for a technological emergency would require basic planning for a power outage or electrical blackout.
* According to FEMA's ready.gov website, preparing for a blackout requires preparing an emergency kit and a plan for family communication and how family members should meet up if they are separated. When planning for a power outage, be sure to include extra flashlights and batteries in your emergency kit as well as a battery-operated or hand crank radio to listen for instructions. One important tip for planning ahead for a power outage is to always have cash on hand and a half tank of gas in your car. Gas pumps and ATMs require electricity. Most store cash registers are electricity- and computer-driven so the need for cash is especially necessary to procure goods during a blackout.
* Emergency preparation and disaster planning should be a regular part of daily life. Whether the magnetic poles reverse or not, there will continue to be earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. Being prepared with a plan, emergency supplies and the knowledge of how to handle whatever comes is the best practice. Check out fema.gov for tips on disaster planning. Even though FEMA doesn't offer specific tips for pole shift preparation, emergency preparedness can be adapted for any disaster.
Tammy Lee Morris is certified as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member and is a trained Skywarn Storm Spotter through the National Weather Service. She has received interpretive training regarding the New Madrid Seismic Zone through EarthScope -- a program of the National Science Foundation. She researches and writes about earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, weather and other natural phenomena.