Warming temperatures, growing cities, TIME people of the year: 10 lists that define the 2010s

It was a decade of change, of progress, of loss and of growth.

Tragedy struck across the country with shootings, fires and tornadoes. We reckoned with the problem of sexual misconduct and battled misinformation. Temperatures got warmer, colleges got more expensive, and species were lost forever. 

But there were moments of hope and breakthroughs. Cities grew, space was explored and young people sparked movements to better their communities and the world.

At USA TODAY, lists are a way we report the news clearly and concisely, giving readers the story while cutting through the noise of the moment. To cap off the decade, here are 10 lists of 10 things that show how our country evolved over the 10 years of the 2010s.

10 USA TODAY front pages from each New Year holiday

Here’s how USA TODAY commemorated the turn of each year during the decade with 10 of our holiday front pages.

10 words of the year from Merriam-Webster dictionary

The dictionary chose “they” as its word of the year in 2019 as “it reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term – a personal pronoun – can rise to the top of our data.” The dictionary said lookups for “they” increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year. Here are all the words of the year Merriam-Webster selected this decade.

10 winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking New Reporting

With the growth of smartphones and social media, news reporting and the spread of information changed dramatically over the decade. However, these 10 winners of the Pulitzer Prize show not only excellence in journalism amid the changes but also major news events that captivated the nation.

2019 – Staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “For immersive, compassionate coverage of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that captured the anguish and resilience of a community thrust into grief.”

Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh

Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh
Jeffrey Becke, USA TODAY Sports

2018 – Staff of The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.: “For lucid and tenacious coverage of historic wildfires that ravaged the city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, expertly utilizing an array of tools, including photography, video and social media platforms, to bring clarity to its readers –  in real time and in subsequent in-depth reporting.”

2017 – Staff of East Bay Times, Oakland, Calif.: “For relentless coverage of the ‘Ghost Ship’ fire, which killed 36 people at a warehouse party, and for reporting after the tragedy that exposed the city’s failure to take actions that might have prevented it.”

This Dec. 3, 2016, file image from video provided by KGO-TV shows the Ghost Ship warehouse after a fire swept through the building in Oakland, Calif.

This Dec. 3, 2016, file image from video provided by KGO-TV shows the Ghost Ship warehouse after a fire swept through the building in Oakland, Calif.
AP

2016 – Los Angeles Times Staff: “For exceptional reporting, including both local and global perspectives, on the shooting in San Bernardino and the terror investigation that followed.”

2015 – The Seattle Times Staff: “For its digital account of a landslide that killed 43 people and the impressive follow-up reporting that explored whether the calamity could have been avoided.”

2014 – Staff of The Boston Globe: “For its exhaustive and empathetic coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing manhunt that enveloped the city, using photography and a range of digital tools to capture the full impact of the tragedy.”

A man lies on the ground as police officers react to a second explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

A man lies on the ground as police officers react to a second explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.
John Tlumacki, AP

2013 – Staff of The Denver Post: “For its comprehensive coverage of the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., that killed 12 and injured 58, using journalistic tools, from Twitter and Facebook to video and written reports, both to capture a breaking story and provide context.”

People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo., at the scene of a mass shooting on July 20, 2012.

People gather outside the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colo., at the scene of a mass shooting on July 20, 2012.
Karl Gehring, AP

2012 – Staff of The Tuscaloosa News: “For its enterprising coverage of a deadly tornado, using social media as well as traditional reporting to provide real-time updates, help locate missing people and produce in-depth print accounts even after power disruption forced the paper to publish at another plant 50 miles away.”

2011 – No award given: Finalists included a joint staff entry of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald covering the Haiti earthquake, the staff of Chicago Tribune covering the deaths of two Chicago firefighters and the staff of The Tennessean in Nashville covering a devastating flood in Middle Tennessee.

2010 – Staff of The Seattle Times: “For its comprehensive coverage, in print and online, of the shooting deaths of four police officers in a coffee house and the 40-hour manhunt for the suspect.”

10 years of warming temperatures

The effects of climate change became even more pronounced this decade as average global temperatures soared; 2016 marked the warmest year on record. Below is data from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies that shows each year’s temperature anomaly, or change in global surface temperature relative to 1951-1980 average temperatures.

10 ‘TIME’ People of the Year

From Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, these 10 “People of the Year” shaped the decade with their influence, power and perseverance.

10 years of Google searches

As the 2010s progressed, Google search became an even more ubiquitous tool online for gathering information. Here are the top 5 searches from each year, according to Google Trends.

10 years of soaring college prices

As student debt grew in the 2010s, so did the price of attending college. The data below shows how high these costs rose over 10 years.

10 metro areas that grew the most

These cities and surrounding metropolitan areas have grown the most in the 2010s, according to the most recent and available data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

10 notable space events and NASA achievements

Images of distant planets and interstellar firsts showed the stunning beauty and scientific progress of space exploration in the 2010s. Here are 10 notable NASA achievement and interstellar events.

2010: Astronaut T.J. Creamer sent the first unassisted tweet from space while aboard the International Space Station.

2011: The Space Shuttle era ended after 30 years when Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center.

The space shuttle Atlantis STS-135 landed this morning at Kennedy Space Center after a mission to the International Space Station. This landing is the last landing of the space shuttle program.

The space shuttle Atlantis STS-135 landed this morning at Kennedy Space Center after a mission to the International Space Station. This landing is the last landing of the space shuttle program.
Michael R. Brown, GANNETT

2012: For the first time, a human-made object, Voyager 1, left the sun’s realm behind and ventured into the vast space between the stars. The record-setting spacecraft, which launched in 1977, is the first to edge into interstellar space.

2013: The LADEE spacecraft, charged with studying the lunar atmosphere and dust, launched from Wallops Flight Facility – the first deep space mission to launch from the Virginia facility.

2014Orion, the spacecraft intended to carry astronauts back to the moon and possibly Mars, completed its first spaceflight test when an unmanned capsule lapped Earth twice then splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.

2015New Horizons captured fascinating images and details of Pluto. No human-made object has been closer to the dwarf planet.

New Horizons scientists used enhanced color images to detect differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface.

New Horizons scientists used enhanced color images to detect differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface.
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

2016: After a five-year journey, the Juno probe reached Jupiter for a mission to study the gas giant from as close as 2,600 miles over the planet’s cloud tops.

2017: Americans marveled at their first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since Woodrow Wilson was in the White House in an event that started in Oregon and ended about 90 minutes later in South Carolina.

2018: NASA completed its eighth successful touchdown on Mars when the InSight mission survived its fiery plunge through the Red Planet’s thin atmosphere.

2019: Men had floated out the hatch on all 420 spacewalks conducted over the past half-century. That changed with spacewalk No. 421 when NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir ventured outside the International Space Station and repaired a broken battery charger.

10 species that went extinct

“The species we lost in the 2010s should serve as a stark warning that the extinction crisis is accelerating,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which identified the 10 species listed below. Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the center, added: “The loss of even a tiny snail tells the story of a place that has been irreparably harmed and can never truly be fixed.”

Tacoma Pocket Gopher (Thomomys mazama tacomensis): A subspecies of pocket gopher native to Washington state, the Tacoma pocket gopher lost its prairie habitat to residential and suburban development and gravel mining. It was declared extinct in 2012 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Po’ouli (Melamprosops phaeosoma): A species of honeycatcher native to Hawaii, this black-faced bird was listed as endangered in 1975. In 2004, the last wild sighting occurred, and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species declared it extinct in 2019.

Hawaiian tree snail (Achatinella apexfulva): George, the last of his species, died on New Year’s Day 2019 in a laboratory in Oahu. This snail was thought to have gone extinct years ago until 10 were discovered in the wild in 1997.

Eastern puma (Puma concolor couguar): Eastern pumas once lived from Quebec to South Carolina and from Manitoba to Illinois. The subspecies was officially declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2018, though it was likely extinct for years before.

Eastern puma

Eastern puma
US Fish & Wildlife Service

South Florida rainbow snake (Farancia erytrogramma seminola): The South Florida rainbow snake was colorful and once considered the rarest snake in North America. After decades without a spotting in the wild, the Fish and Wildlife Service declared it extinct in 2011.

Ozark pyrg (Marstonia ozarkensis): A tiny freshwater mussel once native to Missouri and Arkansas, the Ozark pyrg was listed as presumed extinct in 2018 by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Pinta Island Tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii): Native to the Galapagos Islands, these large tortoises could live to be as old as 150. Lonesome George, the last member of this species, lived for a century before passing away in 2012.

Lonesome George, the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, is pictured at Galapagos National Park's breeding center.

Lonesome George, the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, is pictured at Galapagos National Park’s breeding center.
AFP via Getty Images

Formosan Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura): A subspecies of clouded leopard once endemic to Taiwan, this elusive cat was driven to extinction by habitat loss and poachers. While still considered officially extinct, there was an unconfirmed sighting of a possible leopard earlier in 2019.

Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola): This small rodent lived on a single island in the Eastern Torres Strait of the Great Barrier Reef. It is considered by scientists to be the first mammal driven extinct by climate change as rising sea levels destroyed its habitat.

Bramble cay melomy

Bramble cay melomy
State of Queensland

Florida Zestos Skipper (Epargyreus zestos oberon) and Rockland Grass Skipper (Hesperia meskei pinocayo): Like the Bramble Cay melomys, these two subspecies of skipper butterflies illustrate how fragile island and wetlands ecologies have become in the 21st century. Both were found only in the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park and went extinct because of habitat loss.