Call it a sign of the times.
Google searches for “World War 3” have spiked to a record high in the last few weeks. The largest surge came on April 7 when President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airfield in response to its chemical weapons attack.
The search results, as illustrated by Google Trends, have remained abnormally high over the past few days as tensions between the United States and other global powers continue to rise. The last spike for the search term followed the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015. This month has nearly doubled that volume and is now the highest going back to 2003 (the first year Google provides results).
Breaking it down by country, Trinidad and Tobago accounts for the most “World War 3” searches over the past week, followed by Australia, Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico. Interestingly, the United States and United Kingdom are the only two nations showing interest for “World War 3” results in the past 30 days. Google shows the terms “Syria” and “World War 3 is going to happen” had more than a 1,000 percent increase in search traffic over that period.
Other “breakout” terms include “Syria World War 3,” “war in Syria,” “Russia Syria,” and combinations of those words. Trump’s decision to launch the first intentional U.S. military strike against the Syrian government, an ally of Russia, has worsened relations between the Washington and Moscow, which “may be at an all-time low,” the president said on Wednesday.
Thursday’s bombing in Afghanistan is just starting to produce a major jump in traffic. The latest incident already brought April’s total searches for “Afghanistan bomb” above any other month in the past year.
Perhaps the most eye-opening term is “going to war,” which reached its highest point of all time this month, nearly doubling the second-highest amount in November 2015. The U.S. leads in the number of searches for the term, followed by familiar companions the U.K., Australia, and Canada.
We don’t expect the fear of a coming war will die down anytime soon. President Trump announced on Wednesday that relations between the U.S. and Russia may be at an “all time low.” He also said China needs to “deal” with North Korea or the U.S. will.
North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017
While there are a number of factors to consider when reading these numbers—like the amount search traffic has increased over the years—it’s clear the eroding relations between the U.S. and others has increased fears of a third world war to levels we haven’t seen in over a decade.