13 Disasters That Might Threaten the World in 2020

From massive earthquakes to geopolitical tensions, here are some potential disasters that could come in 2020.
Christopher McFadden

2020 hasn't started off too well. Australia was engulfed in flames and a novel form of coronavirus is currently rampaging around the planet.

But there are some other potential disasters in waiting that could shake human civilization to the core. 


What are the types of disasters?

The word disaster is thrown around a lot, but what are the kinds of disasters that can rock the planet. As it turns out, disasters can be broken down into these convenient categories: 

  • Geophysical (e.g. Earthquakes, Landslides, Tsunamis, and Volcanic Activity)
  • Hydrological (e.g. Avalanches and Floods)

  • Climatological (e.g. Extreme Temperatures, Drought and Wildfires)
  • Meteorological (e.g. Cyclones and Storms/Wave Surges)
  • Biological (e.g. Disease Epidemics and Insect/Animal Plagues)
  • Geopolitical and economical (e.g. stock market crashes, wars, etc). 

What was the worst disaster in history?

History is littered with catastrophic disasters. But to determine the "worst" you really need to define by what metrics you use to compare events.

If we take human death counts, for example, as our metric, some of the worst disasters in history  include, but are not limited to: 

  • Bhola cyclone – 1970, Bangladesh – 275,000-500,000 deaths.
  • Shaanxi Earthquake – 1556, Shaanxi, China – 830,000 deaths.
  • 365 Crete Tsunami – 365, Crete, Europe – 300,000-500,000 deaths.
  • The Yellow River floods – 1931, China – 4,000,000 deaths.

How can disasters be prevented?

While some natural, or other, disasters are likely unavoidable (asteroid impact or mega volcanic eruption for example), you can limit the potential threat to life post-event.

According to sites like protectyourhome.com, here are some basic steps you can take to prevent further injury or loss of life in the event of a disaster: 

  • Stay informed. 
  • Have a plan for evacuation. 
  • Keep emergency kits (and supplies) on hand. 
  • Avoid unnecessary risks.
  • Go to the safest area in your home.

What disasters could happen in 2020?

So, without further ado, here are some disasters that could devastate life as we know it in 2020. This list is far from exhaustive and is in no particular order.

1. Could we be in for an economic crash in 2020?

Stock market and global economic crashes are predicted all the time. But there is some good evidence that another big correction is going to be on the books very soon.

But it should be kept in mind that market corrections are part and parcel of its nature. Despite the fact that this panic among investors can lead to massive market crashes, like in 2008. These kinds of events tend to occur roughly every 10 years or so. Could we see one in 2020?

Many experts believe so.

Market fears are also heightened thanks to the growing worry about the effects of the coronavirus (more on that later). 

But don't forget that markets have always recovered after such events. Hold your nerve -- you might even get some great deals while the stocks are on sale!

2. Yellowstone Park is due to erupt anytime now

2020 disasters yellowstone
Source: Nêssa Florêncio/Flickr

Yellowstone National Park is a beautiful and idyllic place. But this hides a literal ticking bomb under its surface.

The park actually sits on top of enormous supervolcano tens of kilometers in diameter. The volcano is still active and is due to erupt anytime now.

The last eruption was 630,000 years ago. That sounds like a long time ago, but volcanologists have discovered that this volcano tends to erupt every 600 - 700 thousand years

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If this erupts in 2020, it could potentially be a human civilization-ending event. 

3. Lake Toba supervolcano is also a sleeping giant

2020 disasters lake toba
Source: Klim Levene/Flickr

Yellowstone is not the only sleeping giant volcano on the planet. Lake Toba in Indonesia also sits on top of an enormous supervolcano. 

It last erupted about 74-75 thousand years ago and was so devastating that it is believed to have almost made humans extinct. While geologists believe Lake Toba is unlikely to blow in 2020, its magma chamber is far from dormant.

4. The Hilina Slump could go anytime

The Hilina Slump is a notoriously unstable slope on the South of Hawaii's big island. This slump, every now and again, creates a landslide that generates horrendous tsunamis.

Geologists have found evidence that around 120,000 years ago a particularly bad landslide generated a tsunami that was over 400 meters high. As recently as 1975, a movement on the slump generated a smaller, yet powerful tsunami that managed to reach California. 

But it should be noted that geologists are confident a mega-tsunami generating landslide is unlikely to happen soon.

5. The "Big One" is well overdue in California, Oregon, and Washington

2020 disasters san andreas
Source: Adam Reeder/Flickr

The San Andreas Fault is another potential disaster that could occur in 2020. According to the USGS, the probability of a devastating magnitude 8.0 or a larger earthquake hitting California within the next few decades is pretty high.

California's high population density and propensity to live in high-rise buildings could mean that when the "Big One" comes, it will be horrendous.

6. Could we see a massive solar storm in 2020?

2020 disasters the sun
Source: Tomasz Baranowski/Flickr

Our beloved Sun not only sustains us, but it has the power to destroy us too. It increases and decreases in activity in a cycle over time. At times it can lead to the release of a coronal mass ejection (CME).

These billion-ton clouds of magnetized plasma. If Earth took a direct hit, it could be devastating for human civilization. The electromagnetic pulses generated by this kind of event could knock out, or severely damage, most of Earth's electronics. 

According to some scientists, like Pete Riley, there is a 12% chance this kind of event will occur in the next decade. 

7. Could the Syrian civil war spark global conflict?

With the recent news of Turkish soldiers being killed by a suspected Russian airstrike, many fear that the Syrian conflict could turn into something more global.

While this is nothing new, the Syrian conflict could be a ticking time bomb. Let's hope cooler heads prevail. 

8. The US-China trade war could turn very sour

202 disasters us china
Source: CDC Global/Flickr

The recent decoupling of the United States and China is already disrupting tech-flow, talent, and investment between the two superpowers. Not only does this affect trade directly between the two nations, but it could contaminate the global tech sector market.

If a deal is not reached, this could deepen geopolitical and economic tensions around the world. Some have even predicted it could spark actual conflict

9. Latin America is looking shaky

2020 disasters south america
Source: DJANDYW.COM/Flickr

Over the last few years, Latin American societies have become increasingly polarized. Public anger is growing over sluggish growth, corruption, and low-quality public services, not to mention general malaise with various socialist policies. 

In countries like Venezuela, tensions have already boiled over and this is unlikely to be pacified anytime soon. What could 2020 have in store? 

10. Coronavirus is spooking a lot of people

2020 disasters coronavirus
Source: Goldcastle7/iStock

As coronavirus spreads around the world, many nations are preparing to brace themselves for the coming storm. While death rates are currently low, the information-control of the communist Chinese government is making it tricky to determine just how dangerous this new novel coronavirus is. 

China has already closed down much of its industry that, alone, may greatly affect global trade. Will it become a devastating pandemic in 2020? Time will tell. 

11. Is a new American civil war on the cards?

2020 disasters civil war
Source: Tom Gill/Flickr

Many pundits are talking about a growing potential for a new civil war in the United States. As America becomes ever more politically polarized, some fear this can only end in one way -- civil war.

While many others believe this to be overblown, the political climate in the US isn't looking too rosy. 

12. The 2014 Chilean earthquake might have been the start of something much bigger

Back in 2014, an 8.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Chile. Created by the meeting of two of the Earth's continental plates (the Pacific and Nazca plates), this earthquake event might have just been the start of something bigger.

Although the 2014 quake, called a "megathrust", was pretty bad, it is estimated this event only released a third of the built-up tension between the plates. The rest is expected to be released sometime very soon.

13. Could the EU collapse?

2020 disasters EU
Source: Klaas Brumann/Flickr

And finally, hot on the heels of the United Kingdom recovering its national sovereignty, could other EU member states follow suit in 2020 and beyond? Italy for example?

The recent rising tensions between Italy's elected government and Brussels are casting even more doubt on the political union's future. According to BlackRock, the risk of European Union fragmentation is at its highest since 2006.