This article and many others like it describe a phenomenon where the Earth's magnetic poles occasionally switch directions. The key ideas seem to be:
- Earth's magnetic poles occasionally switch places.
- This probably happens on a semi-regular basis, and according to our best guess at the schedule, we're long overdue for a switch right now.
- The magnetic north pole has been moving South much faster than normal recently (25 mi/year).
- We don't know exactly what happens during a switch, but it's probably not great.
The main concern seems to be that the Earth's magnetic field is what's responsible for deflecting/weakening a lot of incoming radiation, but the magnetic field gets a lot weaker during a switching event. Then again, the article linked above suggests that the period is about 300,000 years, which is far shorter than the length of our evolutionary history. That puts a bound on how bad it can be.
Nonetheless, this all somewhat concerning to me. Who are the relevant authority figures on the subject? How worried are they that we might be on the brink of some kind of extinction event? How worried are they about the interaction of such an event with everyday electronics? Do they make any recommendations for how individual people can prepare themselves for a potential switch? How about for society?