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Expand chart
Data: Google News Lab; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The year started with a record-breaking government shutdown and is ending with the third presidential impeachment in U.S. history — in between an onslaught of investigations, conspiracies, scandals and memes.

Why it matters: The chart, based on search trends compiled by Google News Lab, highlights how short the public's attention span was as the media darted from one big thing to another.

  • In the era of President Trump and social media, surges of Google interest in the biggest events of the year only lasted about a week before the public's attention was drawn elsewhere.
  • Some issues, such as the 2020 election and the Mexico-U.S. border, drew more steady attention — but fewer of the dramatic spikes of interest that other topics had.

By the numbers: The news event that saw the largest single spike in Google interest compared to any other event on the list was Hurricane Dorian, which ravaged the Bahamas in early September.

The runners up:

  1. Game of Thrones final season
  2. Government shutdown
  3. Jeffrey Epstein and impeachment (tie)

For impeachment, the highest peaks of Google interest came the week of September 22 — when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry against Trump — and the week of December 15th, when Trump was impeached.

Greta Thunberg, who was unknown at the beginning of the year, received surges of interest in late September and mid-December, giving her more search interest in the last three months than the China trade war, the 2020 presidential election or Brexit.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.

44 mins ago - Health

America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The race to figure out just how dangerous the Omicron variant is will likely be a global effort, but some experts are skeptical that the U.S. will play a dominant role.

Why it matters: The CDC has repeatedly come under fire for inadequate data collection throughout the pandemic — and figuring out how to respond to Omicron requires a lot of data that doesn't currently exist.

U.S. faces urgent anti-hacker crisis

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The Biden administration is accelerating efforts to fill nearly 600,000 vacant cybersecurity positions in the public and private sectors bogging down efforts to protect digital infrastructure.

Why it matters: Following a deluge of ransomware attacks targeting critical government and corporate infrastructure this year, clogs in the talent pipeline are leaving federal, cash-strapped local governments and Big Business even more susceptible to hacking.