Events that changed the world in 2016

Every year events transpire that forever change the world, cementing a place in future history books -- and 2016 has had its fair share of world-changing events.

As this year comes to a close and planning for 2017 begins, take a moment and reflect on those events that will certainly have an impact on the future.

Death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died on February 13 at the age of 79, leaving America's highest court with just eight serving judges. Scalia was known for his strict, conservative interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and Republicans immediately vowed to block any nomination by President Obama, sparking a partisan battle. In March, Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland, but he has yet to receive a hearing from the Republican-lead Senate. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to nominate a conservative judge when he takes office in January 2017.


British citizens voted on June 23 to leave the European Union, shocking the rest of the world. The vote, dubbed Brexit, triggered panic and sent markets around the world spiraling before eventually recovering. The choice to leave the EU earned 52 percent of the vote, while the option to stay in the EU received just 48 percent. The day after the referendum passed, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who was a leading voice for Britain to stay in the EU, resigned. Former Home Secretary Theresa May has since stepped in to take his place. Leaving the EU is unprecedented, and the transition to fully leave will take an estimated 2-6 years to complete.

Events that changed the world in 2016

Pulse Nightclub shooting

A gunman entered a packed popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida during the early morning hours of June 12, and opened fire. The lives of 49 innocent people were taken, and over 50 were wounded. The youngest victim, Akyra Murray, was just 18-years-old and was celebrating her recent graduation from a Philadelphia high school.

The heartbreaking massacre became the deadliest shooting in recent American history, and the deadliest terror attack since September 11, 2001. The lone shooter, Omar Mateen, called 911 from inside Pulse and pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State. Matten was killed in a shootout with police more than three hours after the shooting began.

Cuba - U.S. relations

President Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928. Cuban President Raul Castro hosted the Obama family in late March. The historic visit was criticized by Castro's brother and the island nation's former Communist leader Fidel Castro. In October the U.S. abstained from a vote on the U.N. resolution calling for an end to the US economic embargo. Just eight months after Obama's visit, Fidel Castro died at the age of 90, sparking a mixture of condolences and celebrations.


Zika, a mosquito and sexually-transmitted virus, started to spread in Brazil, creating an epidemic-level outbreak. The CDC has issued an alert for travel to areas where Zika virus is spreading, including Southern Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico. Mild symptoms tend to last just a week, however Infection during pregnancy can cause severe birth defects.

Related: People we've lost in 2016