Extreme Weather Experienced Worldwide

These past few months have been filled with extreme weather in many parts of the world, and climatologists are trying to figure out what to make of it.

From flooding in China to wildfires in Russia, strong winds in Australia to stiffling heat in the United States, with waterspouts over Miami Beach, Florida.  It's the season of unusual weather.

In Pakistan, floodwaters have swallowed whole villages and killed 1,500 people. "It rained the whole day and night. We did not sleep," said Mohammad Yaseen, a retired solder.

In China, torrential rains brought on the worst floods in a decade. Roads under two meters of water. Landslides surprising drivers. "I saw a rock falling down and then suddenly I heard a terrible noise, and another boulder hit my car and I was stunned," said Jiang Qidi, a driver.

In Russia, weeks of record-breaking heat and little rain are hampering efforts to extinguish wildfires.  Flames surrounded and nearly trapped this group of volunteers.

Analysts say the world should be aware of the consequences. "We pray to God day and night for rain to fall, to change this weather.  It is the only thing which can help us," said Igor Vlaznev, a Russian firefighter.

Russia is the world's third largest wheat exporter and officials there say the drought will cut the grain harvest by 25 percent. Grain exports could drop by a half this year.  World wheat prices are already up nearly 50 percent since early June.

"Grain prices are going up.  Food prices are going to be going up," said Lester Brown, who is with the Earth Policy Institute.

So what is going on?  Is it simply a coincidence that this extreme weather is occurring at the same time worldwide. Or is it a warning of catastrophic climate change?  The U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration says the earth has been warming over the past three decades and the most recent decade is the hottest ever.

"Even if the temperature trend were flat, we would see extreme weather. What we will see in a changing climate is that these things are more frequent. They may be of higher magnitude, meaning more severe when they happen and that's what we can truly see in a changing climate," said Deke Arndt, with NOAA.

Brown says it does not necessarily mean global warming, but "what we can say is that given the projections for future temperature rises, that we will be seeing more and more Russias around the world.  The next time it may be in China, may be in the U.S. midwest or Great Plains.  Could be in two or three of them at once. Then we are in real trouble."

Brown says to watch for three key indicators -- the number of hungry people in the world, the price of grain and the number of failing states.   

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