July 18, 2023 - Millions face extreme heat in the US, Europe and China

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Christian Edwards, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Tori B. Powell, Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 10:00 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023
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3:14 a.m. ET, July 18, 2023

South Korean president vows to "overhaul" approach to extreme weather after deadly flooding

From CNN's Yoonjung Seo in Seoul, South Korea and Alex Stambaugh 

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed Monday to "overhaul" the country's approach to extreme weather from the climate crisis after heavy rains triggered flooding and landslides, killing dozens of people. 

"These extreme weather events will be commonplace going forward, so we must accept climate change is happening and deal with it," Yoon said in a cabinet meeting Monday, according to a statement from the president's office. 

"The perception that it’s unavoidable because climate change is an anomaly must be overhauled,” he said, urging officials to act with “utmost determination.”

At least 41 people have died and nine people remain missing in the country as a result of heavy rain, according to the Ministry Interior and Safety. Among the deaths, 14 were killed after being trapped in an underpass in the city of Cheongju that flooded on Saturday, according to the ministry. 

The South Korean government and provincial police said they have launched investigations into the deadly underpass flooding.

11:58 p.m. ET, July 17, 2023

Millions of people across the world are battling extreme weather. Here's what you need to know

From CNN staff

Blisteringly high temperature are expected to endure across the globe, breaking records on multiple continents, as experts urge world leaders to act now on the climate crisis.

Southern European countries such as Italy and Greece are grappling with extreme heat this week, causing great discomfort for millions of people. Parts of China and the United States have also been experiencing soaring temperatures. 

Asia, the world’s largest and most populous continent, is reckoning with the deadly effects of extreme summer weather, as countries endure blistering heat waves and record monsoon rainfall, with governments warning residents to prepare for more to come.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Climate emergency takes hold: The head of the World Health Organization has urged world leaders to "act now" on the climate crisis, saying it "is not a warning. It’s happening." As the human-caused climate crisis accelerates, scientists are clear that extreme weather events such as heat waves will only become more frequent and more intense. Global temperatures have already risen 1.2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels due to humans burning planet-heating fossil fuels. “This is just the beginning,” said Simon Lewis, the chair of global change science at the University College London.
  • US: Millions of people in the Southwest and Southern United States face dangerously high temperatures. Some places, like Texas and Arizona, have been enduring a weekslong heat streak. Phoenix once again hit 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43°C) Monday for a record-tying 18th consecutive day at that temperature or higher. More than 90 million people are under heat advisories across the US, including at least 50 million who have been under heat alerts for the past 10 days.
  • Europe: High temperatures are expected to continue across parts of southern Europe this week, as the continent braces for its second extreme heat wave, putting people’s health at risk and setting the stage for wildfires. Italy, Spain and Greece have already faced unrelenting heat for days, but the European Space Agency has warned the heat wave is just beginning. In Italy, which has been particularly hard hit, temperatures in many cities are expected to soar above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
  • China: Temperatures hit 52.2 degrees Celsius (126 Fahrenheit) on Sunday in northwest China and more than five weather stations exceeded highs of 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) Monday — among the hottest in history. This follows a record hot summer in the capital Beijing. The heat wave hits amid the arrival of US Climate Envoy John Kerry in China for talks between the world's two biggest polluters. China is also experiencing downpours and flooding, particularly in the south.
  • Asia: While some regions grapple with searing heat, others face deadly downpours. Torrential rains have inundated parts of JapanChinaSouth Korea and India this month, upending the lives of millions and causing flash floods, landslides and power cuts. At least 41 people have been killed in South Korea due to flooding and landslides, including 13 trapped in a flooded underpass. In Japan, record rainfall resulted in devastating flooding that killed at least six people. It's a pattern seen throughout the region — from parts of the Philippines and Cambodia where widespread flooding has led to transport disruptions — to parts of India where record rainfall brought several states to a near standstill and claimed the lives of dozens.
11:39 p.m. ET, July 17, 2023

WHO chief urges world leaders to "act now" on climate crisis

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite

The head of the World Health Organization on Monday urged world leaders to "act now" on the climate crisis as parts of the globe face a brutal heat wave.

"In many parts of the world, today is predicted to be the hottest day on record. And these records have already been broken a few times this year. Heatwaves put our health and lives at risk," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet Monday.
"The #ClimateCrisis is not a warning. It’s happening. I urge world leaders to ACT now," he said.
3:18 a.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Wildfire smoke from Canada expected to impact air quality in the US this week

From CNN's Caitlin Kaiser

An aerial view of wildfire of Tatkin Lake in British Columbia, Canada on July 10.
An aerial view of wildfire of Tatkin Lake in British Columbia, Canada on July 10. BC Wildfire Service/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Canadian wildfire smoke is bringing unhealthy air across the northern tier of the United States this week, triggering air quality alerts for more than a dozen states from Montana to Vermont.

The smoke could linger into Tuesday across parts of the East Coast, but is not forecast to reach the same “hazardous” levels there as it did in early June. The smoke should get less potent as the week progresses, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

The plume was birthed from nearly 400 fires ignited in Canada’s province of British Columbia in the past week, nearly half of which were started by 51,000 lightning strikes from thunderstorms, the British Columbia Wildfire Service said. Some of those thunderstorms were “dry” or produced inconsequential amounts of rain to help quench any fires — a dangerous prospect in a province experiencing the worst level of drought.

The province is expected to receive federal assistance to help with its ongoing wildfires, according to a Sunday news release from Public Safety Canada.

As of Monday, there are more than 882 fires burning throughout Canada. The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre says at least 581 of the current wildfires are considered “out of control,” according to its website.

Wildfire smoke contains tiny pollutants known as particle matter, or PM 2.5, that can get into the lungs and bloodstream once inhaled. These pollutants most commonly cause difficulty breathing and eye and throat irritation but have also been linked to more serious long-term health issues like lung cancer, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

3:27 a.m. ET, July 18, 2023

US and China — the world's biggest polluters — meet on climate change against backdrop of global heat wave

From CNN's Nectar Gan and Sharon Braithwaite

Visitors shelter under umbrellas as they line up to enter the Forbidden City on a hot day in Beijing on July 9.
Visitors shelter under umbrellas as they line up to enter the Forbidden City on a hot day in Beijing on July 9. Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

As John Kerry arrived in Beijing Sunday for a long-awaited trip to restart climate negotiations, the United States climate envoy stepped off the plane into one of the hottest summers ever recorded in the Chinese capital.

Since 1951, Beijing has seen temperatures breaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) on 11 days — with almost half of them occurring in the past few weeks, including a new record for the city’s hottest day in June. On Sunday, China set an all-time national high temperature at 126 degrees Fahrenheit (52.2 degrees Celsius).

In the United States, an extreme heat wave is also swelling, with temperatures in the Southwest forecasted to be in the triple digits this week.

It’s a global problem: the planet’s hottest day ever was recorded for four straight days earlier this month.

As the world’s two biggest polluters — with China’s emissions of planet-heating pollution more than double those of the US — the two countries account for nearly 40% of global emissions.

During meetings with the leaders, Kerry told CNN in a recent interview that US officials were planning to press China on commitments to cut back on burning coal and to slash its emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Beijing, meanwhile, is likely to ask Washington to remove tariffs on Chinese solar panels, according to analysis from Li Shuo, senior global policy adviser at Greenpeace China.

10:34 p.m. ET, July 17, 2023

These are the signs to watch for to stay safe in extreme heat

From CNN's Christina Maxouris

Heat is called a “silent killer” because you can’t see it but it can quickly turn deadly. The very young, the elderly and those who have to spend long periods of time outside, such as outdoor workers and people experiencing homelessness, are particularly vulnerable.

Here’s what happens to your body in extreme heat, what you need to watch out for and how to stay safe:

The body is used to a range of temperatures between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36 to 37 degrees Celsius). When it rises above this, the body sweats to cool down but the higher the temperature, the harder it is to cool down — especially if it’s humid, which means sweat can’t evaporate as easily.

The second way your body cools itself down is by dilating blood vessels and upping your heart rate, which helps bring heat and blood to the surface of your body and release that excess heat.

What to watch for: Heat exhaustion can occur when your body overheats. This can bring dizziness, nausea and headaches. Heat stroke is more serious and happens when the body’s temperature climbs to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) or higher. Untreated, it can damage organs or even cause death.

One of the main recommendations for people to protect themselves from the heat is to stay inside and avoid exercise during the hottest parts of the day, especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. When outside, stay in the shade.

Experts advise that people wear light, loose-fitting clothes, a hat and sunscreen and drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty, but avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

According to Judith Linden, a professor in the emergency medicine department at Boston University’s school of medicine, it's also important to watch out for others.

“If somebody starts feeling light-headed, dizzy, nausea or headache, that is the time to act immediately. That means getting them out of the heat and into a cool environment,” she told CNN.
1:54 a.m. ET, July 18, 2023

An unprecedented situation: Ocean temperatures off the coast of Florida are nearly 100 degrees

From CNN's Eric Zerkel

People cool off in the Atlantic Ocean at Hollywood Beach, Florida on July 10.
People cool off in the Atlantic Ocean at Hollywood Beach, Florida on July 10. Wilfredo Lee/AP

A sudden marine heat wave off the coast of Florida has surprised scientists and sent water temperatures soaring to unprecedented highs, threatening one of the most severe coral bleaching events the state has ever seen.

Sea surface temperatures around Florida have reached the highest levels on record since satellites began collecting ocean data. And the warming is happening much earlier than normal — yet another example of ocean heat being amplified by the human-caused climate crisis and the extreme weather it brings.

“We didn’t expect this heating to happen so early in the year and to be so extreme,” Derek Manzello, a coordinator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch, told CNN. “This appears to be unprecedented in our records.”

The exceptional temperatures — close to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 Celsius) in some areas — are more than just another alarming climate record; extreme ocean heat and its duration are critical in deciding the survival of coral reefs. Temperatures that are too hot for too long cause coral to bleach, turning a ghastly white as they expel their algal food source and slowly starve to death.

Coral that bleaches won’t always die, but the more intense the heat and the longer it lasts, the more inevitable death becomes, coral experts said.

Ocean temperatures around Florida usually get hotter as the summer progresses and don’t reach their peak until late August into September, Manzello said, meaning ocean temperatures could rise further.

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