Buddhist monastery in Bhutan in the HimalayasAsia is the largest continent. The northern part is taken up entirely by Siberia, part of Russia. Here tundra borders the Arctic Ocean, with vast coniferous forests further south. The forests give way to dry grasslands, or steppes, of Central Asia, which merge into rocky desert. Much of southwest Asia, known as the Middle East, is also covered by desert—hot, dry and mostly sandy. South of the Himalayas, the countries of South Asia have a monsoon climate: long periods of hot, dry weather followed by heavy rains. In Southeast Asia, a peninsula reaches out towards the many islands of Indonesia, some of them still covered by tropical rainforest.
Although large areas of Asia are almost empty of people, Asia has the largest population of any continent by far. It is home to more than 4.5 billion people, around 60% of the world's population. Asian cities are growing quickly as more and more people move in from the countryside to find work.
Japanese people expect to live longer than any other nationality: women to 87, men to 81.
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