20231128 year of extremes
2023 was another year of extremes. Image Credit: Agencies

Sizzling temperatures, millions fleeing their homes, multitudes flocking to a movie about a doll - 2023 was another year of extremes.

AFP looks at 10 standout numbers:

The great displacement

20231016 ground invasion
Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip after the Israeli army issued an evacuation warning to a population of over 1 million in northern Gaza and Gaza City to seek refuge in the south ahead of a possible Israeli ground invasion.

The number of people around the world displaced by conflict or humanitarian crises was already at a record high before the Israel-Gaza war began on October 7, adding to the misery.

By the end of September, 114 million people had been driven from their homes by wars in Ukraine, Sudan, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo and a humanitarian crisis in Taliban-run Afghanistan, among other factors, according to UN refugee agency the UNHCR.

They have since been joined by at least 1.7 million Gazans.

Hot as hell

spain hot
A woman holds an umbrella to shelter from the sun during a hot sunny day in Madrid.

One heat record after another tumbled in 2023, which is on course to be the hottest year on record, according to the European Union's climate monitor Copernicus.

The northern hemisphere had its hottest summer ever and temperature records were also smashed in the southern winter, with the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires experiencing its warmest August 1 on record at 30 degrees Celsius.

Rugby glory

Copy of 2023-10-28T223756Z_1459195855_UP1EJAS1O10J5_RTRMADP_3_RUGBY-UNION-WORLDCUP-NZL-ZAF-1698577356442
South Africa's Siya Kolisi lifts The Webb Ellis Cup as they celebrate winning the world cup final against New Zealand at Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France on Saturday.

Defending champions South Africa won a nail-biting final 12-11 against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup, to claim a record fourth title and seal the growing role of rugby - once the sport of the white minority under apartheid - as a unifying force in multiracial South Africa.

"People who are not from South Africa don't understand what it means for our country. It is not just about the game. Our country goes through such a lot," captain Siya Kolisi said.

Indians outnumber Chinese

People crowd on platforms as they wait for their train at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station Mumbai on April 19, 2023.
People crowd on platforms as they wait for their train at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station Mumbai on April 19, 2023.

India overtook China to become the world's most populous country in mid-2023, accounting for nearly 1.43 billion of Earth's eight billion humans, according to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

After peaking in 2022 at 1.426 billion, China's population has started to fall for the first time in six decades. By 2100 its population might be only half that of India, experts say.

Fossil fuel frenzy

Oil hits 2023 highs on tight supply outlook.

Bad news for the climate: world oil demand is at record highs, with appetite for the fossil fuel expected to reach 102 million barrels a day this year, rising to 102.9 bpd in 2024.

China, the world's biggest oil importer, accounted for the bulk of the increased demand as the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions fuelled a recovery in travel and manufacturing.

Billion-dollar Barbie

20231128 barbie
Australian actress Margot Robbie poses on the pink carpet upon arrival for the European premiere of "Barbie" in central London Image Credit: AFP

Cinemas got a much-needed post-pandemic boost when Greta Gerwig's blockbuster "Barbie" hit theatres worldwide with Margot Robbie as Mattel's iconic doll.

The film hit the billion-dollar box office mark faster than any film in Warner Bros.' 100-year history and made Gerwig the highest-grossing female director ever.

Tennis titan

Novak Djokovic
Serbian tennis legend Novak Djokovic.

Serbian tennis legend Novak Djokovic continued his age-defying heroics by adding three more Grand Slams to his collection - the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open - giving him a record 24 men's singles titles, ahead of Spain's Rafael Nadal on 22.

He is now joint record-holder for men and women with Australia's Margaret Court who won 24 singles Grand Slams in the 1960s and 1970s.

Mercury mania

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Freddie Mercury's Yamaha Grand Piano, estimated at 2-3 million pounds, on display at Sotheby's auction rooms in London. Image Credit: AP

A record 2,000 bidders from 61 countries registered to take part when the piano that Queen frontman Freddie Mercury used to compose almost all of his greatest songs, and the original manuscript for "Bohemian Rhapsody", went under the hammer in London in September.

The baby grand was snapped up for over #3 million as part of the mega-auction of Mercury memorabilia that included items as diverse as a moustache comb and the door to Mercury's garden.

Facebook mega-fine

"Without the ability to transfer data across borders, the internet risks being carved up into national and regional silos," Meta said.

The European Union this year ratcheted up its battle with Big Tech over privacy and other breaches.

Facebook was hit with a record penalty of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in Ireland for illegally transferring personal data between Europe and the United States, in breach of EU rules requiring Europeans to consent to the ways in which their data is used.

A dog's (very long) life

Bobi oldest dog
Leonel Costa walks the dog, Bobi, that broke the record for oldest dog ever at 30 years-old, at Conqueiros, in Leiria, Portugal, February 4, 2023.

Beloved Portuguese sheepdog Bobi had barely time to wag his tail over being ordained the world's oldest dog by the Guinness World Records in February, when he was called to the canine everafter.

The purebred Rafeiro - a dog with a typical life expectancy of 12-14 years - lived to the ripe old age of 31 years and 165 days, with his owners crediting his longevity in part to his "human" diet.