Extreme weather in Asia over the past six months may be a sign of a more extreme climate change, according to U.N. weather expert Michael Coughlan.

Since June, hundreds of people have been killed and millions left homeless by floods in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh and India this year. Meanwhile, drought has caused devastation in Iran and the southern republics of the former Soviet Union, and led to mass migrations in Afghanistan. In Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, over a million people are facing starvation and deaths by dehydration are occurring among children and the very old.

The reason for the violent weather is that the Indian Ocean monsoon has intensified. This climactic feature is as important to world climate as the El Nino-La Nina cycle in the Pacific Ocean. Coughlin relates the change in the monsoon to rising temperatures, and there is no indication that the process is going to change at any time in the near future.

If it does not change, a large area of Central Asia, already arid, could become desert in a few years, while rice paddies throughout southern Asia will be threatened with flooding. These changes would result in major population dislocations and a drop in food production in some of the most populous areas of the world.

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