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Our Top Infographics of 2019

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Visual Capitalist's Top Infographics of 2019

This year, we published more than 300 posts on Visual Capitalist, getting well over 30 million views along the way.

Many of these graphics are visually stunning, but there’s only room for 19 posts on the annual list of our best work. Below, you’ll find the Top Infographics of 2019 list, which contains our most popular infographics, as well as a curation of staff favorites for the year.

New this year is our “Viewer’s Choice” award, which is given to the best visualization, as chosen by our loyal VC+ readership.

Below are the top posts of 2019. But first, a few quick notes:

  • Images below are small preview images for each large infographic and article.
  • To view any post in full, click the image or link in the text. All links open in a new tab.
  • At the very end of the list, you can find our “Viewer’s Choice” award winner.

Wishing you the best in the new year!
– The Visual Capitalist Team


Our Top Infographics of 2019

If you like what you see on the following list, don’t forget to subscribe to our mailing list or connect via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to get our free content daily.

Let the countdown begin…

19. How Does Your Personality Type Affect Your Income?

How Does Your Personality Type Affect Your Income?

When it comes to making money, not all personality types play on an even playing field.

This recent post breaks down Myers-Briggs personality types by average earning potential, including the specific facets that tend to correlate positively with money over the long term.

18. The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web

The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web

Digital media moves at a breakneck pace — and with almost no barriers to entry, it’s no surprise to see the pecking order turn over every other year.

Even so, it’s easy to forget that names like GeoCities, Lycos, and Ask Jeeves once dominated the internet landscape as we knew it. Our infographic from earlier this year balances the technological pace of change with nostalgia, to show how the web has changed over recent decades.

17. Where the World’s Banks Make the Most Money

Where the World's Banks Make the Most Money

In 2018, the global banking industry raked in $1.3 trillion in after-tax profit.

In this infographic, we looked at where the money is in banking — as well as the upcoming geographic regions and segments that will fuel the future of banking.

16. A History of Revolution in U.S. Taxation

A History of Revolution in U.S. Taxation

The American Revolution was born out of colonial dissent towards unfair taxation policies.

For this reason, it’s no surprise that the evolution of U.S. taxation itself has been inextricably linked to contentious debate and even moments of rebellion. Our infographic on the history of U.S. taxation helps paint a picture of this story.

15. The History of Esports

The History of Esports

Esports is already filling stadiums — and soon it could be lining investors’ pockets as well.

Our recent infographic breaks down the history of this soon-to-be multi-billion dollar industry, while also showing you the five factors that will determine the pace of future growth in esports.

14. The Game of Life: Visualizing China’s Social Credit System

The Game of Life: Visualizing China's Social Credit System

Imagine a world where over a billion citizens are scored on how “good” they are, based on a set of criteria put forward by the government.

What could possibly go wrong?

13. Visualizing Corruption Around the World

Visualizing Corruption Around the World

Which countries are the most corrupt?

This colorful map breaks down the Corruptions Perception Index — an attempted measure of the perceived level of public sector corruption in over 180 countries.

12. The Race to Invest in the Space Economy

The Race to Invest in the Space Economy

For decades, the space economy has been driven solely by government spending.

Of course, the government still plays an important role in the sector today, but the final frontier is also seemingly open for private business and sustained investment. In the near future, space tourism, resource extraction, and other segments could make space a trillion dollar industry.

11. Mapped: The World’s Biggest Oil Discoveries Since 1868

Mapped: The World's Biggest Oil Discoveries Since 1868

Historically, oil and gas discoveries have been an unparalleled source of wealth for many countries around the world.

This recent post maps out the biggest oil discoveries ever made, while also highlighting the flipside to the story: in a global economy where dependency on fossil fuels is expected to diminish, is any new discovery a blessing or a curse?

10. Walmart Nation: Mapping America’s Biggest Employers

Which company or organization is the largest employer in every state?

This animated map focuses in on employment statistics — but really, it gives perspective of the dominance of Walmart, the nation’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer and private employer.

9. Mapped: The Countries With the Highest Housing Bubble Risks

Mapped: The Countries With the Highest Housing Bubble Risks

This series of maps highlights several metrics that are used to evaluate housing markets, including the price-to-rent ratio, price-to-income ratio, real house prices, and credit to households as a percentage of GDP.

See which countries have ratios out of whack, and what it could mean for housing markets.

8. All of the World’s Carbon Emissions in One Chart

All of the World's Carbon Emissions in One Chart

Only 15 countries account for over 72.2% of global carbon emissions.

See it all visualized — and also see the percentage of fossil fuel emissions that have occurred in your lifetime.

7. Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent

Visualizing the Happiest Country on Every Continent

This series of maps provides a look at each individual continent, to identify the happiest (and unhappiest) country in each region.

6. 70 Years of China’s Economic Growth In One Chart

70 Years of China's Economic Growth In One Chart

It’s been 70 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

This nifty graphic timeline contains an impressive amount of history and facts about the country’s prolific rise and economic growth.

5. The Most Hyped Technology of Every Year From 2000-2018

The Most Hyped Technology of Every Year From 2000-2018

It’s not always easy to tell which new technologies will pan out, and which will fail to live up to society’s expectations.

But hindsight is 20/20 — so in this graphic, we look back at almost 20 years of Gartner’s hype cycle of emerging technologies, to see what amounted from many of the technological breakthroughs that have gained traction over the years.

4. Ranking the Top 100 Websites in the World

Ranking the Top 100 Websites in the World

In this spectacular data visualization, we resize the world’s top 100 websites according to the amount of traffic they receive.

The end result provides a fascinating snapshot of global web traffic, and the impressive scale of the internet.

3. The Entire History of Tesla in 5 Minutes

What is the origin story behind Tesla, and how did it end up becoming the innovative car company it is today?

We condense the history of Tesla into about five minutes, while also providing an outline of the future vision of Elon Musk.

2. $69 Trillion of World Debt in One Infographic

$69 Trillion of World Debt in One Infographic

Did you know that government debt now adds up to $69 trillion globally?

The latest version of our famous world debt graphic breaks down the debt owed by each country as a proportion of world debt, as well as debt to GDP ratios.

1. How Tech Giants Make Their Billions

How Tech Giants Make Their Billions

Tech giants are finding ways to play bigger roles in our digital lives, whether it’s through computers, smartphones, smart devices, or apps.

As names like Facebook, Amazon, and Google have become even more ubiquitous, they’ve also leveraged network effects, scale, and winner-take-most marketplaces to build up powerful businesses as well.

Our #1 pick of 2019 showcases the Big Five Tech Giants and their various revenue streams – which, when combined together, add up to over $802 billion per year.

Viewer’s Choice: The Largest Economies in 2030

Finally, it’s time for our “Viewer’s Choice” award.

We polled our VC+ members last week to get a tally for which visualization this year was their favorite, with this video on the largest projected economies in 2030 taking the cake.

Until next time, have a fantastic holiday season and a happy new year!

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Visual Capitalist’s Top 20 Visualizations of 2020

In a complex world, the combined forces of data and visual communication take on new importance. See our top 20 visualizations for 2020.

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Top 20 visualizations of 2020

Top Visualizations of 2020

What can be said about 2020 that hasn’t already been said? Simply put, it was a wild ride. Not only did these past few months provide a multitude of topics for us to dig into, our growing team produced far more original work than ever before.

This is now the seventh edition of our yearly round-up. One noteworthy change is in the name. It’s no longer the “Top Infographics”, which reflects a broader shift to different styles of visual communication. We live in a complex, volatile, multi-screen world, and our visualizations are becoming more nimble to keep up this fast pace.

Below is a selection of our most noteworthy work. Some pieces have been selected because of their wide reach, while others broke new ground in design and data-driven reporting. For the top picks, members of our team will provide some commentary on the concept and context.

Let’s dive in to our list of the top visualizations of 2020.
 
Editor’s note: Click on any preview below to see the full-sized version of a visualization.


Visual Capitalist’s Top 20 Visualizations of 2020

#20

The Soaring Value of Intangible Assets in the S&P 500

Tangible vs. Intangible Assets

The ascent of tech firms since the 1990s has brought about a massive change in the asset mix of publicly-traded companies, with the share of intangibles currently at unprecedented levels. This infographic charts the growth of intangible assets in the S&P 500 over time, providing a glimpse at how prevalent technology has become in our lives.

#19

Tech’s Bizarre Beginnings & Lucrative Pivots

Lucrative Tech Pivots

Imagine Samsung trading dehydrated fish and Nokia selling rubber boots. It’s bizarre, but that’s exactly how some tech giants started their journey. In this infographic, we show the unusual beginnings of recognizable tech brands and the pivots that helped earn their success.

#18

Charting the $1.7B Transfer of Military Equipment to Police Departments

The $1.7 billion transfer of military equipment to police departments

From office supplies and thermal underwear to mine-resistant vehicles and helicopters, a plethora of outdated military equipment has been transferred to police forces through the 1033 program. This visualization tracks the flow of $1.7B worth of military equipment to law enforcement over the past decade at the state and department levels.

#17

Visualizing the Footprint of Highways in American Cities

The Impact of Highways on American Cities

Highways not only enabled a new era of connectivity, but also utterly changed the course of development in American cities. These animations show how highways reshaped the downtown cores of six American cities and provide background on the interstate highway system.

#16

How Many People Die Each Day?

Deaths per day vs. COVID-19

COVID-19’s daily death toll numbers have taken center stage in the media, with recent December numbers in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 15,000 deaths per day globally. But without any frame of reference, these numbers can be hard to put into perspective.

Which diseases are the most deadly, and how many lives do they take per day? This infographic visualizes average daily deaths by cause and country, showing how many lives are claimed by various diseases and instances on a daily basis.

#15

Visualizing the Countries Most Reliant on Tourism

Countries Most Reliant on Tourism

Looking at which countries were most reliant on tourism was especially important in a year where travel changed dramatically. This chart breaks down the countries with travel and tourism sectors that make up more than 15% of national employment.

#14

Prediction Consensus: What the Experts See Coming in 2020

Prediction Consensus in 2020

There was no lack of predictions from pundits and prognosticators as we approached the beginning of a new decade. As 2019 drew to a close, we compiled hundreds of predictions to get a broader sense of what the experts saw coming in the year ahead. (Spoiler alert: Nobody had global pandemic on their bingo card.)

#13

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation

Media Habits by Generation in 2020

COVID-19 changed a lot of things about daily life, but how did it impact the way we consume media? This graphic looks at the trends in media usage by generation and the type of media being consumed. Overall, Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers all increased their time looking at media in 2020.

#12

Mind-Bending Medicine: An Overview of Psychedelic Substances

Overview of Psychedelic Substances

With the growing awareness around mental health, the use of psychedelic substances for treating mental health disorders is becoming less speculative and more mainstream. This infographic is an eye-opening overview of seven of the most common psychedelic substances and examines the mind-bending ways in which they could transform mental health.

#11

Making Billions: The Richest People in the World

Making Billions: The Richest People in the World

This graphic from September reveals the world’s richest people across multiple categories. Peruse this graphic to see some familiar faces like Mark Zuckerberg, some of China’s richest people, like Jack Ma, and, of course, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos.

#10

The Race to Save Lives: Comparing Vaccine Development Timelines

Vaccine Development Timelines

This in-depth visualization showed us the historical rate of development for the world’s vaccines. Understanding how the development process works was more important this year than usual as many people had questions about COVID-19 vaccines in the pipeline.

#9

Zooming In: Visualizing the Relative Size of Particles

The Relative Size of Particles

The coronavirus has made us well aware of the impact microscopic things can have on our lives. From virus particles and wildfire smoke to a grain of salt and fine beach sand, this infographic zooms in to visualize the relative size of particles that are often smaller than the eye can see.

#8

Visualizing the Length of the Fine Print, for 14 Popular Apps

Length of tech service agreements

In a year with more people relying on technology than ever, how many of us truly know what we sign up for?

This infographic–which was inspired by an art exhibition by Dima Yarovinsky–revealed just how lengthy and arduous terms of service agreements are for some of the most popular apps, and how long it would take to read them.

#7

U.S. Dollar Performance After U.S. Elections

U.S. Dollar Performance After Elections

A turbulent election year for the U.S. meant many were examining the potential of the election on markets—both before and after November. Our recent look at U.S. dollar performance after U.S. elections took a closer look at the influence elections really have on the market.

#6

Visualizing the Expanse of the ETF Universe

The Expanse of the ETF Universe

Since the establishment of the first U.S. exchange-traded fund (ETF) in 1993, ETFs have gained traction as a convenient way of investing in multiple stocks. In terms of assets under management, the ETF universe is almost five times what it was just a decade ago.

In this visualization, we show the expanse of the $5.75 trillion ETF universe that covers almost every investing niche.

#5

The Economics of Coffee in One Chart

The Economics of Coffee

Words by Omri Wallach

If you’ve purchased even one cup of coffee this year from a nearby café, you’ve participated in the $200+ billion global coffee supply chain. Yet few of us understand the amazing journey coffee makes from beans to cup, nor the costs associated with them (and who profits).

This infographic breaks down the costs incurred by retail coffee production for one 16 oz (475ml) cup of brewed coffee. From growing and processing beans to a massive export and roasting market, it reveals the underlying costs that factor into every cup of coffee you consume.

#4

The Math Behind Social Distancing

Math Behind Social Distancing

Words by Nick Routley

Along with zoom and flatten the curve, the term social distancing entered our collective lexicon. While the benefits of avoiding extraneous human contact during a pandemic can be easily understood at the individual level, the downstream effects are harder to understand.

Our goal with this graphic—which was published just two weeks after the pandemic was declared—was to provide an impactful example of how a reduction in social exposure would theoretically contain the spread of infection. And time was of the essence. Previous research had shown that the sooner distancing measures were put in place, the more effective they were at curbing local outbreaks.

#3

The Front Line: Visualizing the Occupations with the Highest COVID-19 Risk

covid-19 occupational risk

Words by Nick Routley

After the shock of the pandemic wore off, people began to ask more practical questions about how it would impact their day-to-day life. One of those questions was: will my job put me at risk for contracting coronavirus?

We looked to answer that complicated question by digging into the U.S. Department of Labor’s massive O*Net database, which has classified nearly every type of occupation based on a number of attributes. We selected specific attributes and gave each job a score, making it easy for people to evaluate occupational risk in their own life.

There were a number of ways the information could be charted, but in the end we decided to plot risk against annual income.

#2

50 Years of Gaming History, by Revenue Stream

History of Gaming by Revenue Stream

Words by Omri Wallach

The COVID-19 pandemic hit many sectors hard, but gaming was not one of them. The market continued growing its ever-rising tsunami of revenue, new consoles were launched, and tech giants entered the playing field to try their hands at capturing the cloud streaming market.

But how did 2020’s estimated $165 billion gaming market come to be? This historical timeline examines the rise of gaming revenue from the arcade boom to the console and PC invasion, culminating in the rapid rise of mobile gaming. Considering revenues have been adjusted for inflation, it clearly demonstrates the upwards momentum of media’s biggest earning sector.

#1

Visualizing the History of Pandemics

history of pandemics

Words by Nicholas LePan

In 2020, the COVID-19 virus swept the world and forced nations to shutter their economies to protect their citizens. However unique this virus is to our current time, the world has faced pandemics before, so Visual Capitalist looked to the past.

The History of Pandemics infographic compared the death toll from the COVID-19 virus to other historic pandemics all the way back to Roman times. However, as time revealed the growing impact of the COVID-19, this infographic was updated to tally the growing death toll.

We are still in the midst of this pandemic and the final impact is still uncertain. But undoubtedly, COVD-19 defined 2020 and will continue to do so in 2021 and beyond.


Thanks for visiting our top visualizations of 2020 round-up. From our entire team at Visual Capitalist, we wish you a prosperous and safe 2021!

Previous Years:

See previous round-ups of top visualizations here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015

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The Year in Review: 2020 in 20 Visualizations

These 20 charts, maps, and visualizations help capture what happened in a tumultuous year around the globe.

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Can you remember a year more life-changing than 2020?

Over a million lives were lost in the pandemic, oil prices turned negative, and protests swept the streets. At the same time, 10 years of technology advancements seemed to happen in mere months—and now vaccinations are rolling out at a record speed.

Below, we round up some of the year’s biggest news events with charts and visualizations.


The Year in Review: 2020 in 20 Visualizations

Graphic #1   ⟩⟩   January 2020

Australian Bushfires

For some in the Southern Hemisphere who ushered in the new year first, it started on fire.

Reuters assessed the scale of the damage caused by bushfires across Australia. In fact, total burned areas reached 18.6 million hectares (186,000km²) by March, bigger than the total land mass of entire countries like Cuba.

Here’s the damage done in the state of New South Wales alone, compared to previous years:

australia nsw bushfire season 2019-2020

While bushfires are common in Australia, this year, dry conditions fueled the flames. The fires raged for nearly 80 days, displacing or killing nearly 3 billion animals—a devastating biodiversity loss for the country.

Graphic #2   ⟩⟩   January 2020

Rising Iran–U.S. Tensions

In early January, a U.S. air strike incinerated the car of General Qassim Suleimani, a security mastermind and one of Iran’s most powerful military strategists. U.S. officials claimed that Iran was planning an “imminent” attack.

In retaliation, Iran fired two rockets at U.S. military bases located in Iraq. No one was killed. As tensions escalated, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to try and restrict President Trump’s use of military power against Iran without approval.

iran missile flight PS752

Later, in mid-January, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard admitted that it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, responsible for the death of 176 people.

Graphic #3   ⟩⟩   March 2020

The Spread of the “Novel Coronavirus”

You’ve heard of Patient Zero, but what about Patient 31?

Before February, cases of the still unnamed virus were largely contained within China, with the rest of the world cautiously observing the country’s containment efforts. Slowly, but surely, the virus began to spread beyond China’s borders.

South Korea’s 31st confirmed COVID-19 case—which was behind the rapid spread of the virus to potentially up to 1,160 contacts in the country—served as a warning to the rest of the world of how fast the virus could spread.

patient 31 south korea covid-19 superspreader
» See the full graphic by Reuters

Reuters’ unique graphic explainer uncovers how just one typical day of multiple “normal” interactions had significant super-spreader effects.

Graphic #4   ⟩⟩   March 2020

The Coronavirus Crash

The S&P 500 erased over a third of its value in under a month—the fastest 30% decline ever recorded on the benchmark index.

As a result, the global tourism industry suffered dramatic losses, with countless cruise ships docked and passenger flights traveling at half-capacity.

beach stocks covid-19

This graphic shows the BEACH stocks—booking, entertainment & live events, airlines, cruises & casinos, hotels & resorts—that were most impacted by worldwide travel bans.

While some of these stocks have since recovered, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 is still most widely being felt among companies in these types of industries.

Graphic #5 & 6   ⟩⟩   March 2020

Lockdown Life Begins

From toilet paper hoarding to limits on gatherings, the pandemic’s immediate effects on our surrounding environment became clear as early as March. As daily life came to a standstill, commuter activity in major cities plummeted throughout the month.

covid-19 city shutdown mobility

One unintended positive consequence of these shutdowns? Air pollution, such as nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) emissions also steeply dropped alongside these restrictions on movement.

Possibly the most well-known diagram of the pandemic is the one that introduced the world to the phrase “flatten the curve”, showing why it was important to prevent and delay the spread of the virus so that large portions of the population aren’t sick at the same time.

flattening the covid19 curve

Graphic #7   ⟩⟩   April 2020

Historic U.S. Job Losses

After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, unemployment figures soon hit historic proportions.

Within a month, 22 million in the U.S. had filed jobless claims.

historic covid-19 job losses

To put this in perspective, U.S. unemployment levels in 2020 were roughly 10 times higher than previous peak unemployment levels in absolute terms. Or, to look at it another way, this is equivalent to the entire population of Chile or Taiwan.

Graphic #8   ⟩⟩   April 2020

Stimulus Announced in the U.S.

On March 27, the $2 trillion CARES Act came into law after facing minimal resistance from the House and Senate. We broke down the historic relief package in the Sankey diagram below.

anatomy of covid-19 stimulus package cares act

The relief package included $1,200 direct deposits to individuals, over $350 billion in relief for small businesses, and an excess of $100 billion for the U.S. health system.

Graphic #9   ⟩⟩   April 2020

Oil Prices Go Negative

In another historic event, oil prices went negative for the first time in history. Futures contracts for WTI oil fell to a stunning -$37.63 on April 20th, with producers actually paying traders to take oil off their hands.

negative oil explainer charts

Oil has since recovered from this shock, cruising back to more typical price levels.

Graphic #10   ⟩⟩   May 2020

Black Lives Matter Protests

“I can’t breathe.” These few words sparked the ongoing flames of a significant movement this summer: Black Lives Matter (BLM).

After the killing of George Floyd on May 25, by police, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) recorded over 7,750 BLM-linked demonstrations over a three month span.

george floyd blm protests and riots

The nationwide pattern of civil unrest is well-documented, but there’s been no time like the present to demand change. Though images of burning cars and police clashes dominated the headlines, in the end, 93% of the protests were peaceful.

There’s also been a ripple effect, with thousands of similar rallies reported in countries around the world.

Graphic #11 & 12  ⟩⟩   May 2020

The World Works from Home

The dramatic shift to staying at home has resulted in a much higher reliance on technology for many people. Nowhere were these trends exemplified more than the rise of video conferencing software Zoom—the platform was used for work, education, and socializing alike.

As monthly users swelled, those who typically take to the skies also declined in a steep fashion. In this graphic from May, we noted that Zoom’s market capitalization had skyrocketed to eclipse the top seven airlines by revenue, combined.

zoom market cap bigger than airlines

As remote work became the new normal for significant shares of the workforce, unique benefits of this adjusted lifestyle arose, but it didn’t come without its challenges.

remote working benefits and struggles

Perhaps the most significant lasting change from the COVID-19 pandemic might be the adoption of flexible work, even by firms that resisted the trend in the past.

If many employees continue to work remotely, even part of the time, then that will have a big impact on everything from the commercial office market to the bottom line of SaaS companies that help facilitate remote collaboration among teams.

Graphic #13   ⟩⟩   July 2020

Tesla becomes World’s Most Valuable Automaker

2020 was a hallmark year for Tesla. In June, it became the most valuable automaker in the world—surpassing the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen, and Honda.

Tesla’s market valuation climbed over 375% since June 2019. While these soaring figures are one factor behind its rise, others include record Model 3 sales, which prompted market euphoria.

Tesla most valuable automaker

But Tesla’s story is far from over.

The company is now worth more than the largest nine automakers combined, and is set to enter the S&P 500 officially on December 21, 2020. Tesla will be the most valuable company to ever enter the index, ranking as the eighth-largest overall.

Graphic #14   ⟩⟩   July 2020

Big Tech’s Dominance

In many ways, COVID-19 only accentuated differences in market share, earnings, and wealth.

For one, Big Tech’s market cap share of the S&P 500 soared. In the seven years preceding July, the market cap of the six stocks—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Alphabet, and Microsoft—grew over 500%. By contrast, the S&P 500 rose just 110%.

faangm vs sp500

At the same time, Big Tech’s concentration reached record levels, with the five largest companies accounting for over 20% of the index’s total value.

Graphic #15   ⟩⟩   August 2020

Beirut Explosion

While the world grappled with numerous biological and natural disasters, human-error led to a deadly explosion that rocked Beirut’s port. The blast was broadcast around the world in real time as people filmed the fire on their devices.

Using satellite data, NASA and NYT mapped the extent of the damage, which claimed 135 lives and affected 305,000 more.

beirut explosion damage
» See the full interactive explainer by NYT

This explosion was the biggest accident of its kind in modern history, triggered by the exposure of combustible ammonium nitrate—a key ingredient in fertilizers—to an open flame due to poor storage. Beyond the human toll, the financial cost of this explosion is estimated at above $15 billion.

ammonium nitrate explosions

Graphic #16   ⟩⟩   August 2020

Shortest Bear Market in History Ends

In a stunning reversal, the bear market of 2020 ended on August 18 when the S&P 500 exceeded previous February highs. As trillions of dollars in stimulus response got injected into global economies, markets recovered in record time.

sp500 Market Crashes

Just two weeks before the shortest bear market in history ended, we published a graphic comparing previous stock crashes—from 1987’s Black Monday to the Nixon Shock of 1973—exposing the duration and intensity of market downturns since 1929.

Graphic #17   ⟩⟩   August 2020

U.S. Wildfire Season

Reddish-orange skies might seem otherworldly, but this fall, they were a common sight across the West Coast of North America, where air quality reached the “hazardous” category for long stretches of time.

U.S. west coast air quality

2020 was the most active year on record for wildfires yet, with California and Oregon being particularly hard-hit. While some wildfires are caused by natural occurrences like lightning strikes, an overwhelming majority (85-90%) happen because of human causes such as discarded cigarettes and campfire debris.

This is an unprecedented event. We now have the largest wildfire in [California’s] history, as well as the third largest and the fourth largest and five of the Top 10.

– Noah Diffenbaugh, professor and senior fellow at Stanford University

Graphic #18   ⟩⟩   November 2020

The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

In 2020, U.S. election spending hit over $13 billion, more than twice the amount spent on the entire 2016 election.

Of this total, congressional spending topped $7 billion, with Democrats spending 64% more than Republican candidates for the House and Senate.

2020 election spending

President Biden was the first candidate ever to raise $1 billion, while Trump raised $596 million.

Graphic #19   ⟩⟩   December 2020

COVID-19’s Third Wave

Like history tells us, pandemics come in waves. The third wave of COVID-19 escalated in November, when cases began to surge.

On November 8, the seven-day average of new daily cases hit 100,000 in America. By the end of November, global cases soared to 60 million. Since then, cases have trended upward, leading local governments worldwide to enforce social distancing requirements for the winter holiday season.

The below graphic from Reddit helps show the latest surge in cases in the U.S.:

third-wave-gif

Graphic #20   ⟩⟩   December 2020

Global Vaccination Effort Kicks Off

In more recent news, Pfizer made waves when it announced it was rolling out a 95% effective COVID-19 vaccine. Then followed Moderna, at 94.5% in mid-November. As the global vaccination race intensifies, Bloomberg tracks the progress of nine vaccines and 80 publicly disclosed distribution deals representing 7.95 billion vaccination doses.

However, even with viable vaccines, challenges still exist. All around the world, perceptions of vaccine safety have dropped significantly, which may complicate an economic recovery.

vaccine perceptions global

On to the Next One

After the wild ride that was 2020, many people are wondering what 2021 will have in store.

In the first half of the year, vaccine distribution will surely take center stage. As well, economic recovery will be in focus as physical businesses resume more typical activity and regions slowly open up travel and tourism again.

Much like the financial crisis of 2008 was an inflection point for the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the course of human history. Chaos can breed opportunity, and even though unemployment spiked to record highs in the U.S., new business applications did as well.

Will things return to “normal”? As the many twists and turns of the past year have demonstrated, our complex, interconnected world is far from static. The next black swan is always just around the corner.

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