Yet again, the record for hottest global average temperature was broken—this time in 2016. This year’s rather strong El Niño was certainly a major factor, enhanced by abnormal changes in climate systems.
In May, NASA announced that the Kepler mission had verified 1 284 new planets. They determined 550 could be rocky, while nine of them could potentially be habitable.
In August, the European Southern Observatory announced the discovery of Proxima Centauri b. Located about 4.2 light-years from Earth, it is the closest known exoplanet to the Solar System, offering the opportunity for robotic exploration in the coming centuries.
Hurricane Matthew was the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since 2007, and resulted in widespread destruction as it made its way across the Western Atlantic. Over 1 600 deaths had been attributed to the storm, with damages estimated to be over $10.5 billion. The storm hit the Caribbean the hardest, especially in Haiti, where 546 people died.
All eyes were on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August, as more than 11 000 athletes from 205 nations competed in 306 events featuring 28 different sports.
Controversies surrounding the Games included political instability in Brazil, the Zika virus, pollution and sanitation concerns, and the Russian doping scandal, but the games went mostly as planned, even exceeding expectations at times. For the fifth time in the past six Summer Olympics, the U.S. won the most medals overall.
Renowned athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt competed in the Olympics for their final time, while athletes like Simone Biles, Ashton Eaton, and Katie Ledecky furthered their careers in sport.
On July 16, a faction of the Turkish Armed Forces attempted a coup d’état against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, citing the erosion of democracy, human rights, and secularism under his rule. The coup failed to gain much traction and was defeated by forces loyal to the state.
Over 300 people were killed and over 2 100 were injured during the coup. Afterwards, over 100 000 people were purged, including the arrests of 10 000 soldiers and 2 745 judges, and the suspensions of 15 000 educational staff and 21 000 teachers.
Less than a year after the peak of the Ebola epidemic in west Africa, fears of a new global pandemic were raised with the Zika virus.
The virus originated in Africa and spread to South America, particularly to Brazil, where more than 3 000 cases of the condition were reported. Infected women were warned against getting pregnant. Those who already were risked a child with microcephaly, a condition involving a malformed skull and brain.
For another year, terrorists attacks inspired by the so-called Islamic State have shaken the world, particularly the West.
The first major Western target was Brussels, Belgium on March 22, where three suicide bombings occurred at an airport and metro station. Thirty-two civilians were killed and another 340 were injured.
Next came Orlando, U.S. on June 12, where a mass shooting targeted a gay nightclub. The attack, which killed 49 people and injured 53 others, was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.
Later came Nice, France on July 14, where a cargo truck was driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day. Eighty-six civilians were killed and 434 were injured. The attack came eight months after 130 people were killed in Paris.
Through the year, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen also experienced deadly terrorist attacks. In total, over 1 455 people have been killed, while over 3 505 have been injured this year in terrorist incidents connected to ISIS.
The United Kingdom’s referendum on whether or not to withdraw from the European Union was one of the first blows to globalisation and establishment politics in recent years, and especially shook the U.K. economy and financial markets.
The shocking upset was followed by the rise of populist pursuits across Europe and North America. U.K. residents—both native and foreign—are still uncertain about their future in the E.U., with negotiations yet to come.
The nearly six-year-long civil war in Syria continued to escalate this year, as President Bashar-al Assad clung on to power with the assistance of Russia and Iran.
This year saw the negotiation of several ceasefires, with all eventually broken. Syria and Russia were ruthless in their mission to retake the strategic city of Aleppo, while civilians remained trapped in rebel-held territory. The city was finally reclaimed by the government on December 13, marking a key victory against opposition fighters.
The war greatly contributed to the massive influx of refugees into neighbouring countries and Europe. There still remains more than six million Syrians internally displaced within Syria, most of whom in need of humanitarian assistance.
From emails to a leaked tape, through a contentious primary and highly-anticipated debates, this story seemed to trump all else.
The campaign began in 2015 when several Republicans and a handful of Democrats announced their intentions to run for U.S. president. What followed for both parties was a series of competitive primaries and debates.
On the Republican side, businessman Donald Trump—originally considered a long-shot in his run for the party’s nomination—managed to beat sixteen other hopefuls through unconventional tactics, both on the campaign trail and debate stage.
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—thought to be the favourite from the start—found herself in an unexpected fight with independent-turned-Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders. Most believe it was Sanders’s populist economic message that pressured Clinton to move leftwards in policy during the campaign.
Once the nominees were chosen at the party conventions, two months passed before they finally faced off in a series of televised debates that broke viewership records.
What followed were the “October surprises”, which included a leaked tape of Trump bragging about his sexual conquests. But what many view as the most damaging was the FBI’s renewal of their investigation into Clinton’s emails, and Director James Comey’s letter to Congress about apparent new details.
On Election Day, Trump managed to pick up enough electoral votes to make a stunning victory that would shock the world for weeks. Clinton, however, picked up three million more votes than Trump nationally—in fact more than any candidate before Barack Obama.
What comes next, though, is uncertain. President-elect Trump is completing his selection for his new cabinet while the world watches. He will be sworn in as the country’s 45th president on January 20, 2017.
Most Influential Person
My pick for 2016’s most influential person is President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.
Under Putin’s leadership, Russia’s sphere of influence has been expanding at the fastest rate since the Cold War. In his country, he has managed to brand himself as a strongman capable of retaliating against any of the West’s pursuits, including the expansion of NATO and the European Union, and the toppling of the brutal Syrian dictatorship.
This year, Putin’s government has taken its influence to the next level, by interfering in the U.S. election in favour of Trump, who has shown admiration and praise for Putin, while showing disdain for Western institutions like NATO traditionally intended to counter Russia’s influence.
The U.S. election is just one of many Western elections set to take place in the following years. Next year, France and Germany—Europe’s most powerful countries—hold elections. There is no doubt Putin’s government will attempt to interfere at a similar scale as the U.S. election.
All finished? Continue on the Shufflenet Road Trip!