1. BP oil spill
On April 20, an explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 men and sent millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for three long months in what would become the worst oil spill - and arguably the worst environmental disaster - in United States history.
The broken well head was capped in July but crude oil continued to leak into the Gulf until September 19, when the well was declared "effectively dead".
The spill caused extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats and crippled the Gulf's fishing industry.
It was a disaster for BP too as people around the world boycotted the company and its embattled gaffe-prone CEO Tony Hayward finally fell on his sword.
2. Haiti earthquake
The lingering effects of the devastating 7.0 magnitude January 12 earthquake - that killed more than 200,000 and left millions homeless in Haiti - have kept the poverty-stricken Caribbean nation in the headlines throughout 2010.
A cholera epidemic that ripped through refugee camps in November brought home the survivors' suffering all over again.
Governments around the world - along with high-profile names like Wyclef Jean, Sean Penn and Angelina Jolie - pledged aid but agencies have been criticised for alleged misuse.
A New Zealand link to the tragedy was the deaths of Emmanuel Rejouis, the Haitian husband of New Zealander Emily Sanson, and their young daughters Kofi-Jade and Zenzie Sanson-Rejouis. Emily and two-year-old Alyahna survived.
3. Pakistan floods
In July, the worst floods in Pakistan's history killed at least 1500 people and affected an estimated 20 million, leaving many of them homeless. United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon visited the area in August and said the floods were the worst natural disaster he had ever seen.
4. Los 33
The world watched as for 69 days, families, friends and lovers kept vigil at the San Jose copper mine near Copiapo, Chile, as 700m below, their loved ones waited to be rescued.
Finally, every one of 'los 33' made it out safe and sound on October 13 after a record time trapped underground and a mammoth rescue effort.
Five weeks later, New Zealand had its own mine disaster and we clung to hope that our men - like Chile's - would make it out okay. Tragically, however, the Pike River mine accident had no happy ending for the 29 trapped inside.
5. Eyjafjallajokull eruption
In April, an eruption at the impossible-to-pronounce Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland triggered a giant ash cloud that caused travel chaos for weeks, grounding planes, stranding millions of travellers across Europe and losing airlines millions of dollars.
6. The WikiLeaks revelations
WikiLeaks has been publishing leaked secret documents since 2006 but it was this year the group really hit the headlines. In April, its website broadcast video footage of an incident in which US forces killed Iraqi civilians and journalists and in July, it released Afghan War Diary, a compilation of nearly 80,000 documents from the war in Afghanistan.
In October, 400,000 documents called the Iraq War Logs came out and detailed hitherto unknown tales of torture and death at the hands of the US army that added at least 15,000 to the war's official death toll.
The following month WikiLeaks released the leaked US State Department diplomatic cables - a series of embarrassing and potentially damaging disclosures to and from US diplomats around the world that continue to be uncovered.
It was the last straw for the US Government, who are planning to lay spying charges against Australian WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange - who has been now been arrested in the UK with rape charges in Sweden pending.
7. Julia Gillard ousts Aussie PM Kevin Rudd
In June, Labor's Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard became Australia's first female Prime Minister when she ousted Kevin Rudd.
In August, she fought a hard battle against the Liberals' Tony Abbott which resulted in the first hung parliament in 60 years.
After four independent MPs eventually declared their support for Labor on confidence and supply, Gillard and Labor hung on for a close victory.
8. Bangkok protests
From March to May the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) - known as the Red Shirts - led a series of political protests against the Thai government in Bangkok which escalated into violent clashes in which more than 80 civilians and 6 soldiers were killed.
9. Suu Kyi released
After almost 15 years of detainment, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was freed by the military government of Myanmar (Burma) in November. The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate appeared in front of thousands of cheering supporters on November 13 and a week later, was reunited with her son after 10 years apart.
10. Hungary's toxic sludge
In November, parts of three Hungarian towns were inundated by 700,000 cubic metres of burning industrial waste from an aluminium factory. The red-coloured waist-deep sludge flooded streets and swept through living rooms before spilling into creeks leading into the Danube, Europe's second largest river. Nine people were killed and dozens more injured and there are fears of lasting damage to the soil and water.
And not to forget...
- Google vs China: The web giant battled the Chinese Government over censorship and cyber attacks for much of the year.
- March: US President Barack Obama introduces far-reaching health reforms.
- April: A Polish Air Force plane crashes near the city of Smolensk, Russia, killing all 96 people on board, including the Polish president Lech Kaczynski and his wife and other high-ranking Polish officials.
- May: The Conservative Party returns to power in Britain, with David Cameron moving into 10 Downing St.
- May: Israel launches a deadly raid on a flotilla of activists bound for blockaded Gaza.
- July: British police launch a massive manhunt for Raoul Moat, who shot his ex-girlfriend, her new partner and a police officer soon after being released from Durham Prison. He was caught after seven days on the run.
- August: China passed Japan to become the world's second largest economy, behind the United States.
- November: Republicans take control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
- November: 349 killed in a stampede at a festival in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
- November: North Korea launches an artillery barrage against its southern neighbour, the North's first assault to target a civilian area since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The North said South Korea first fired artillery toward its territorial waters. South Korea says it fired shells southward, not toward North Korea, as part of routine exercises.
- NZ HERALD STAFF