Editor’s note: Marshall Brain – futurist, inventor, NCSU professor, writer and creator of “How Stuff Works” is a contributor to WRAL TechWire.  Brain takes a serious as well as entertaining look at a world of possibilities for Earth and the human race.  He’s also author of “The Doomsday Book: The Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Threats.” Based on his research and tracking of world-threatening incidents he picks what are in his view the 24 most threatening – and five-in-a-row on his designed Bingo card means big, big trouble. More than that and the world might not survive. The stakes are high. Join in and track on your own card.

Note to readers: WRAL TechWire would like to hear from you about views expressed by our contributors. Please send email to: info@wraltechwire.com.


RALEIGH – As I finish this article, it is the month of January in the year 2023. My question is: will 2023 be better or worse than 2022? When we get to December of 2023, will we look back and say, “2023 was a pretty good year” or “Wow, 2023 was horrible”?

To keep track of things, I have come up with a game we can play in 2023. Let’s call it “Doomsday Bingo 2023.” Here is the Bingo card we will be playing with.

Doomsday bingo card (Credit: Marshall Brain)

If you are not familiar with the rules of Bingo, it goes like this. If you can get five marks in any row, column, or diagonal, you “win” and shout out “BINGO!” The center square is a gimme and is already marked.

Therefore, on this Doomsday Bingo Card we have 24 possible doomsday events that we will be tracking in 2023. If one of these comes true, we will mark that square. The question is, by December 2023, will we shout out “BINGO!”? If we shout “BINGO!”, it is safe to say that 2023 will have been a pretty bad year. If we shout “BINGO!” twice or more, we are probably witnessing the coming collapse of human civilization.

Here are the 24 doomsday events we will be watching for in 2023. Each time any one of these happens, we can mark our Doomsday Bingo Card.

1. Russia Uses a Nuclear Bomb in 2023

Russia continues to threaten that it will use nuclear weapons as part of its ongoing war in Ukraine. And as I write this, Russia is sending a ship with hypersonic nuclear missiles into striking distance of the United States. Therefore, if Russia uses a nuclear bomb in Ukraine, Western Europe or the United States in 2023, we will mark this square. Note that if Russia strikes the United States and then the U.S. retaliates, we are likely to witness the collapse of human civilization. See this report.

2. Any Other Use of a Nuclear Bomb in 2023

Russia is the most obvious player to use a nuclear bomb in 2023 because of all of its public saber rattling, as seen in #1. But there are plenty of other players who might be willing to cross this line in 2023 including Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and random terrorist groups. If we see the detonation of a nuclear bomb anywhere on the planet, we will mark this square. We will also count the significant use of a dirty bomb to mark this square, for example the detonation of a large dirty bomb in a major city.

3. A Major Hurricane Larger than Ian Hits the United States in 2023

Hurricane Ian hit Florida in 2022 and caused more than $50 billion in damage. If a hurricane of this magnitude hits Florida again in 2023, it is likely to cause the collapse of the Florida home insurance marketplace as described in this article.  We will mark this square if we see a hurricane event in the United States larger than Hurricane Ian, or if we see the world’s first named Category 6 hurricane.

4. A Flood More Significant than 2022’s Pakistan Flood Arrives in 2023

The flooding in Pakistan in Fall 2022 was record-setting. According to Wikipedia:

  • 1,739 people died
  • 12,867 injured
  • 1 million people left homeless
  • 10–12% of Pakistan was flooded, 32,800 square miles (84,952 km2)
  • 897,014 houses destroyed and damaged another 1,391,467.
  • 1,164,270 livestock killed

The cause was two-fold: 1) Climate change increased to power of the monsoon season, and 2) Climate change increased glacial melting. The two processes combined to create a catastrophe.

We will mark this square if we see a flood worse than Pakistan’s in 2023. Even in January 2023, California was trying hard to be in the running with 25 trillion gallons of water dumping on the state from 9 climate-change-fueled atmospheric rivers. This video helps you understand the atmospheric river phenomenon that hit the West Coast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDUgrKF6-7A

5. Heat Waves that Cause More Than 2,000 Deaths in 2023

The planet saw several exceptional heat waves in 2022 in places like India, Europe and China. However, none of these were particularly deadly. We will mark this square if anywhere on the planet we see a heatwave that kills more than 2,000 people in 2023. This video covers the European heatwave of 2022: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LovJ6Kit8MY

6. The Gulf Stream Collapses in 2023

The Gulf Stream (AKA the AMOC or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation) is a river of warm water that naturally flows in the Atlantic ocean from the Gulf of Mexico up toward Greenland. It has a number of effects:

  1. It warms Europe
  2. It lowers the sea level along the U.S. East Coast
  3. It feeds plankton in the Atlantic Ocean
  4. It keeps water in motion rather than the Atlantic Ocean seeming more like a bathtub

This video helps you understand the process of collapse: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2ETr6X1lOk

Without Humanity getting its act together, the collapse of the Gulf Stream seems nearly inevitable, but most specialists are putting it a few years out in the future. If it happens in 2023, it would be surprising.

7. The Amazon Rainforest Starts Converting to a Savanah in 2023

Humans keep burning and cutting down the Amazon rainforest, and at some point the “rain” in “rainforest” will stop. The rainforest depends of a symbiotic process where the trees breathe massive amounts of moisture into the atmosphere, which then falls as rain. Cut down enough trees and the cycle stops. At that point, the trees start dying on their own and the rainforest will be replaced with grasslands (AKA Savanah) or in the worst-case-scenario desert. Will the rainforest start actively dying off in 2023? If so, we will mark this square.

8. A Major Crop Failure Causes More Than One Million Deaths in 2023

There are several things that can cause crop failures in the world’s big breadbasket areas. The most significant is lack of water for the crops, because of either drought or the loss of an aquifer. A big flood could also do it. A heatwave can be powerful enough to shrivel crops if it comes at the wrong time. And we saw the effect of war on agriculture when Russia attacked Ukraine in 2022. We also saw how important fertilizer supply chains are in 2022. Will any of these problems cause a crop failure for things like wheat, rice, or corn such that it causes a million+ people to starve in 2023? If so, we will mark this square.

9. An AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) Being Arises in 2023

ChatGPT appeared in December of 2022 and its capabilities were a complete surprise to most people. Its appearance has pushed forward the timeline for an AGI (an Artificial General Intelligence) to step forward and declare itself to be as smart or smarter than the average human being. Prior to 2022, most pundits had the appearance of an AGI pegged more like 10 or 20 years away. But ChatGPT is so capable and so surprising that some have started talking about AGIs in a much closer timeframe. If we see sentience from AI appearing in 2023, we will mark this square.

10. Mass Layoffs Begin Due to ChatGPT or a Descendent in 2023

The other effect of ChatGPT (or any newer systems that appear in 2023) could be mass layoffs in the white collar world. Writers, software developers, teachers, etc. could all be greatly empowered by ChatGPT, but they might also be unemployed by it. If we start seeing significant layoffs due to ChatGPT’s power in 2023, we will mark this square.

11. A Mass Shooting Event Greater than Uvalde in 2023

As we hit January 1, 2023, there was a glimmer of hope that mass shootings in the United States might have hit a peak in 2022 and then would start declining in 2023. However, when we look at the Wikipedia page that tracks mass shootings, 2023 is already off to a bad start. If we see a mass shooting in 2023 that is worse than Uvalde, or if the Wikipedia Mass Shooting page contains more than 800 shootings when we look at it again in December, we will mark this square.

12. A Significant Grid Failure in the United States in 2023

There were more than 100 sabotage attempts on the U.S. power grid in 2022. The worst was in Moore County, NC, where the whole county went dark for 4 days due to rifle shots on a substation. If these saboteurs were to coordinate their efforts, the possibility of city or region going dark is a definite possibility. See this video for details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPwY-FTqWxM

Other possibilities for grid failure in 2023 include:

  • A weather-related event as seen in Texas in 2021
  • An equipment or computer failure
  • An EMP attack
  • A solar event like a Coronal Mass Ejection

If we see a major power grid failure in the United States in 2023, we will mark this square.

13. Something Significant in Antarctica Breaks Loose in 2023

There are several scenarios that can occur in Antarctica that will mark the beginning of significant sea level increases. Example: the Thwaite’s glacier could break loose and start its slide into the ocean. There are several other scenarios like this. The collapse of the Thwaites glacier is not expected to start for 5+ years, but who knows? Maybe we get an Antarctica (or Greenland) surprise in 2023? If so, we will mark this square.

14. A U.S. Town/City Runs Out of Water in 2023

Even with all the rain that California received in January of 2023 (see #4), the American Southwest still has a water problem caused by a long-term drought and mismanagement of the Colorado River. We saw an inkling of what might be coming when the Rio Verde area outside Scottsdale, AZ got its water supply cut off in 2022. See this video for details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgOQbzeejdg

Perhaps 1,000 people have been affected. If we see similar problems in 2023 affecting 10,000+ people, we will mark this square.

This article from the New Yorker sheds additional light on what is happening in the American Southwest:

The Water Wranglers of the West Are Struggling to Save the Colorado River

Another possibility is another municipal water system collapse as see in Jackson, Mississippi in 2022.

15. A Collapse of an Ocean Ecosystem in 2023

Humanity is doing its level best to destroy Earth’s oceans. Attacks on the oceans include:

  • Overfishing
  • Acidification
  • Sea level rise
  • Plastic pollution
  • Chemical/oil pollution
  • Sewage pollution
  • Plankton die-offs
  • Ocean overheating

If a combination of these effects causes a fish species to collapse, a new dead-zone to form, or a reef to die in 2023, we will mark this square. See also Gulf Stream Collapse in #6.

16. New Covid Variant or New Virus Rips Through the Human Population in 2023

Since its start in 2020, the Covid pandemic has killed millions of people around the world, with more than a million deaths in the United States alone. What if a new Covid variant arises that is highly transmissible and more deadly than anything we have seen in the past? Or what if a new virus comes out of nowhere and kills more than a million people in 2023? If so, we will mark this square.

17. Asteroid Strike in 2023

On January 26, 2023 a small perhaps 15-foot-diameter (5 meter) asteroid will come very close to Earth. The amazing thing is that we did not discover this asteroid until January 21, 2023:

Asteroid 2023 BU about to pass Earth in one of closest ever encounters

“An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will pass Earth in one of the closest such encounters ever recorded – coming within a tenth of the distance of most communication satellites’ orbit.”

A small asteroid like this, if it hits Earth at the right angle, has the potential to cause a massive explosion in the atmosphere. We saw this in Russia in 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tq02C_3FvFo

Larger asteroids cause progressively larger amounts of damage depending on their size and where they land. The worst-case-scenario is an asteroid like the one that caused the mass extinction event 65 million years ago. That asteroid was perhaps 6 miles in diameter.

Any asteroid causing enough damage to enter the news cycle in 2023 will mark this square.

18. Major Terrorist Attack in 2023

The events on September 11, 2001 were the worst terrorist attack the world has seen, with nearly 3,000 people killed. Since then, terrorist attacks on Western targets have been much smaller. However, the potential for a deadly new terrorist attack is always present. If we see a terrorist attack with more than 500 casualties in 2023, we will mark this square.

19. A National Economic Collapse in 2023

As I finish this article, there is a great deal of discussion around the possibility of the United States Congress failing to reach agreement around the debt ceiling. The fear is that a default on U.S. debt obligations could yield dire economic ramifications. Here is one take on the problem:

What Happens When the U.S. Hits Its Debt Ceiling?

“Congress has authorized trillions of dollars in spending over the last decade, causing the United States’ debt to nearly triple since 2009. Over that period, the Treasury Department’s ability to borrow money to make payments on that debt has repeatedly run into a congressionally mandated limit on borrowing known as the debt ceiling. Efforts to raise or abolish the ceiling have become a topic of heated debate among policymakers; some lawmakers who decry government debt have used negotiations on altering the limit to try to force spending cuts. The congressional brinkmanship over the issue has increasingly led to disruption, including government shutdowns, and the specter of default that has threatened to push the economy into crisis. With the issue again on the table in 2023 under President Joe Biden, economists are warning of catastrophic consequences if the Treasury Department can no longer pay the nation’s debts.”

The United States is not the only country looking at the possibility of economic catastrophe. Pakistan is also in a bad situation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FvtzNk3JXo

Several other nations are in the same boat. Example: Because of the economic sanctions that Russia has brought on itself, its economy is much less healthy than it should be. Example: Sri Lanka is nearing collapse. And so on.

If we see a national economy collapse in 2023, we will mark this square.

20. Scientists Acknowledge that Earth has Warmed by 1.5 degrees C in 2023

Right now, scientists are using a figure of 1.1 to 1.2 degrees C for the Earth’s warming:

World of Change: Global Temperatures

“Air temperatures on Earth have been rising since the Industrial Revolution. While natural variability plays some part, the preponderance of evidence indicates that human activities—particularly emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases—are mostly responsible for making our planet warmer. According to an ongoing temperature analysis led by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by at least 1.1° Celsius (1.9° Fahrenheit) since 1880. The majority of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15 to 0.20°C per decade.”

1.5 degrees is an important symbolic threshold. It is widely agreed that if humanity could keep warming below 1.5 degrees C, the global effects of climate change would be bad but not catastrophic. Going past 1.5 degrees C is the path to catastrophe.

Once scientists thought that we might never cross this threshold – that humanity would get its act together and fix things before reaching 1.5 degrees C of warming. Then the thought was 2050 as the point we would cross the threshold. But what if we cross this threshold much sooner? What if 2023 is far warmer than expectations? On the one hand it seems impossible that 1.5 degrees C could happen as soon as 2023. On the other hand, climate change keeps surprising us.

If we mark this square in 2023 (or even 2024), global environmental collapse in a near-term future seems likely.

21. An Earthquake or Tsunami Takes Out a City in 2023

In 2011 Japan experienced a huge earthquake and then a huge tsunami. It was a one-two punch that killed over 25,000 people and caused billions in property damage. Here is a recap of what happened: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWzdgBNfhQU

If something like this were to happen again in a place like Japan, China, India, or the United States, it would be a catastrophe. If we see an event like this in 2023, we will mark this square.

22. A Civil War Starts in the United States in 2023

There is so much chatter about a new civil war starting in the United States. This video discusses the problem: https://youtu.be/QJ-w6G3LEbI?t=25

What if a U.S. civil war actually begins, even in a small way? If we see news outlets and pundits declaring that new U.S. civil war has begun in 2023, we will mark this square, and then hope that the rhetoric calms rather than escalating.

23. Major Wildfires in 2023

Wildfires happen every year. But climate change is definitely making the problem worse. Example: The Australia wildfires of 2020 burned over 10 million acres: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz5Cmbl0Bv4

The problems with wildfires are numerous:

  • Property damage
  • Human casualties
  • Wildlife deaths
  • Habitat loss
  • Possible mudslides from burn scars
  • Carbon dioxide release
  • Pollution from smoke

If we see a 10+ million acres of wildfires in 2023, we will mark this square.

24. Wild Card – Anything Else That Makes Humanity Sit Up and Take Notice in 2023

Let’s imagine that something unexpected happens in 2023, and it is significant enough that it causes world leaders to discuss it and take collective action. The start of Russia’s war in Ukraine in February 2022 is an example of such an event. Many nations came together to help Ukraine and punish Russia. If we see something significant like this happen in 2023, we will mark this square.


By compiling all 24 of the possibilities described above, we can create our Doomsday Bingo Card for 2023:

Doomsday bingo card (Credit: Marshall Brain)

In this article we have laid out 24 possible doomsday scenarios for 2023. If any one of them happens in 2023, it would be a catastrophe. Any pair would be terrible. Any combination of five would be horrific. But what if, next December, so many of them happen that we are actually able to shout “BINGO!” with this Doomsday Bingo Card for 2023? It will have been a very bad year indeed.

Here’s hoping that Our Doomsday Bingo Card is blank come next December


  1. https://www.the-sun.com/news/7211759/russian-warship-hypersonic-missiles-us-coast/
  2. https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/24/world/doomsday-clock-2023-climate-scn/index.html
  3. https://www.forbes.com/sites/saradorn/2023/01/15/uk-police-arrest-man-after-discovering-uranium-on-package-at-heathrow-airport/?sh=6849878042d4
  4. https://wraltechwire.com/2022/12/16/hurricanes-insurance-how-prices-could-ignite-mass-migration-from-florida/
  5. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/12/01/hurricane-ian-was-costliest-disaster-on-record-after-katrina-in-2005.html
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffir%E2%80%93Simpson_scale
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Pakistan_floods
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDUgrKF6-7A – California flooding caused by atmospheric rivers – what are those?
  9. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-california-is-being-deluged-by-atmospheric-rivers/
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_China_heat_wave
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_India%E2%80%93Pakistan_heat_wave
  12. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LovJ6Kit8MY – Heatwave: Wildfires spread across Europe as countries break record temperatures – BBC News
  13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2ETr6X1lOk – Abrupt global ocean circulation collapse. Time to start prepping?
  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States_in_2023
  15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson,_Mississippi,_water_crisis
  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgOQbzeejdg – City of Scottsdale cuts suburb off from water supply
  17. https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-the-southwest/the-water-wranglers-of-the-west-are-struggling-to-save-the-colorado-river
  18. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPwY-FTqWxM – What Really Happened with the Substation Attack in North Carolina?
  19. https://wraltechwire.com/2022/09/23/doomsday-warning-its-time-to-start-moving-coastal-cities-to-higher-ground-heres-why/
  20. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/jan/26/asteroid-2023-bu-about-to-pass-earth-in-one-of-closest-ever-encounters
  21. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tq02C_3FvFo – Chelyabinsk Meteor Shockwave Compilation
  22. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1330395/deadliest-terrorist-attacks-worldwide-fatalities/
  23. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FvtzNk3JXo – How bad is Pakistan’s economic crisis? | The Hindu
  24. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/world-of-change/global-temperatures
  25. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2354672-strong-el-nino-could-make-2024-the-first-year-we-pass-1-5c-of-warming/
  26. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWzdgBNfhQU – Rare Video: Japan Tsunami | National Geographic
  27. https://youtu.be/QJ-w6G3LEbI?t=25 – Online Talk Of ‘Civil War’ On The Rise
  28. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz5Cmbl0Bv4 – How the size of the Australian bushfires compare to California | Australia Wildfire Explained