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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3:44 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Italy's hospitals report rise in emergency cases during heat wave, health minister says

From CNN’s Barbie Latza Nadeau in Rome

The extreme heat wave gripping much of Italy is the main reason behind a 20% increase in the number of patients visiting emergency hospital rooms in recent days, Italian Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said in a statement Tuesday. 

The health ministry urges people with respiratory problems to avoid going outdoors, especially between noon and 6 p.m. local time in the coming days, the statement added.

It also said that civil protection authorities will be patrolling to warn vulnerable people to move indoors. 

A number dedicated to heat wave emergencies will be available to the public starting Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time in order to free up the main emergency line for other emergencies. 

3:17 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Several areas in southern France register new record-high temperatures

From CNN’s Pierre Bairin in Paris

A total of nine areas in southern France recorded new high temperatures on Tuesday during a heat wave that has seared many parts of Europe, according to the French weather agency Météo France. 

The nine areas include two places on the French island of Corsica in the Mediterranean, the agency reported. 

According to a tweet from Météo France, record temperatures reached 38.3 degrees Celsius (or about 101 degrees Fahrenheit) in Renno, 38.6 degrees Celsius (about 101 degrees Fahrenheit) in Aups and 29.5 degrees Celsius (about 85 degrees Fahrenheit) at Alpe d'Huez.

2:48 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Flood waters have reached the outer walls of India's Taj Mahal as constant rain continues

From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel

The flooded river banks of the Yamuna are seen along the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, on July 18.
The flooded river banks of the Yamuna are seen along the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, on July 18. Pawan Sharma/AFP/Getty Images

In a rare occurrence, waters from India’s flooded Yamuna River reached the compound walls of the iconic Taj Mahal on Tuesday. 

The Yamuna River has seen an alarming rise in levels in recent days following incessant rains, recorded its highest level in years. The river overflowed near the Indian capital of New Delhi, prompting authorities to evacuate tens of thousands of people. 

The monument is located on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. And while flooding in Yamuna happens regularly during the monsoon season, it’s quite rare for the waters to reach the outer walls of the complex where the monument sits. 

Videos and photos on social media show the river touching the back wall of the site. A garden located behind the monument is seen submerged in flood water. 

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said the Taj Mahal is not under threat due to the floods, according to CNN affiliate News 18.

Several parts of northern India remain at high risk of flooding due to continuous heavy rainfall and water being released from barrages. 

2:31 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

EU's emergency response center issues alert for several European countries for Wednesday 

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy 

The European Union’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre has issued a red alert warning for Wednesday for several European countries where temperatures are expected to surge. 

The alert covers "most of Italy, eastern Croatia, southern Spain, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro," the ERCC said.

The ERCC, which coordinates the bloc’s emergency response to disasters, announced earlier on Tuesday that it was sending four planes to help fight wildfires raging in Greece. 

1:55 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Target changes dress code to allow most employees to wear shorts amid sweltering temperatures

From CNN's Nathaniel Meyersohn

Target said it has changed its dress code to allow more of its approximately 440,000 US-based workers to wear shorts as extreme heat makes retail and other jobs harder.

It’s one small way companies are adjusting to the brutal new reality of climate change. In the United States, millions of people in the Southwest and South face dangerously high temperatures. Some places, such as Texas and Arizona, have experienced a weeks-long heat wave.

Previously, Target allowed employees who worked outdoors to wear shorts.

The company recently changed its policy to allow the majority of store workers to wear shorts, according to a spokesperson. (Target did not say which workers could not wear shorts.)

Target’s uniform standards ask employees to wear solid color pants, capris, skirts or shorts in good condition.

The retailer says it has other policies for employees who work in extreme heat, including frequent water and rest breaks.

Under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety and health hazards, including protecting workers from heat-related hazards.

A 2021 NPR analysis of federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the three-year average of worker heat deaths has doubled since the early 1990s.

2:03 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

China remains committed to carbon neutrality, Xi says

From CNN's Mengchen Zhang and Duarte Mendonca

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends attends a signing ceremony in Beijing on June 14.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends attends a signing ceremony in Beijing on June 14. Jade Gao/Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the country’s commitment to carbon neutrality and carbon peak remains “firm” and will not be influenced by others, Chinese state media Xinhua reported Tuesday. 

“The ‘dual-carbon’ goal we have committed to is firm and unshakeable, but the method and path, the pace and intensity of achieving this goal should and must be determined by ourselves, and never subject to the influence of others,” Xi was quoted saying by Xinhua. 

Xi’s mentioning of the “dual carbon goal” refers to China’s pledge to reach peak carbon emissions by the end of the decade and achieve carbon neutrality in 40 years. 

The ambitious plan was announced by Xi at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2020, the first time China has issued concrete plans to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions.

Xi said that China “should support high-quality development with a high-quality ecological environment” while praising the country's ecological conservation due to its “historic, transformative and comprehensive changes both in theory and practice,” Xinhua reported.

China's extreme heat: On Sunday, China set an all-time national high temperature at 126 degrees Fahrenheit (52.2 degrees Celsius). Beijing is experiencing one of its hottest summers ever.

Earlier Tuesday, US climate envoy John Kerry met with China's top diplomat Wang Yi in Beijing, according to Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, as the world’s two biggest polluters resume long-stalled climate talks. Wang is the top foreign policy chief for the Chinese Communist Party and Xi's most senior foreign policy adviser. 

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.

12:40 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Europe recorded far more heat-related deaths than the US last year. Here's why the numbers could vary so much

From CNN's Rachel Ramirez

Nearly 62,000 people died heat-related deaths last year during Europe’s hottest summer on record, a recent report showed — showing just how serious a health risk extreme heat can be.

In the US, heat kills more Americans than any other weather-related disaster, and the climate crisis has been making these extreme events more deadly. Yet the United States’ heat mortality numbers would suggest that far fewer people are dying from heat than in Europe. According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 700 people die heat-related deaths each year.

David S. Jones, a physician and historian at Harvard University, said there are a few explanations as to why US statistics seem low: The US could be underreporting its numbers, or heat is more lethal in Europe due to the lack of air conditioning — or it could be a combination of the two.

Jones said just 5% of households in France have air conditioning, for example, compared to nearly 90% in the US.

“But it comes back to this question of, well, is Europe just reporting more accurately than the US is?” Jones told CNN.

John Balbus, the acting director of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said the number is lower because the CDC estimates heat-related deaths based on death certificates that list heat as the primary or contributing cause of death, whereas academic institutions use statistical models for their estimates.

2020 study found that heat-related deaths were being underestimated in 297 of the country’s most populous counties, noting that mortality records tend to neglect other potentially heat-related causes of death, like heart attacks.

But Balbus said the CDC does track the number of people who show up to emergency rooms for heat-related illnesses.

“We’re doing the best we can with the resources we have,” Balbus said. “And we could do more with more capacity, but it’s something that has scientific challenges, and it requires support.”

2:03 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Extreme rainfall has killed 9 people in 9 days

From CNN's Allison Chinchar

People use kayaks and canoes to navigate the floodwaters of Elm Street in Montpelier, Vermont, on July 11.
People use kayaks and canoes to navigate the floodwaters of Elm Street in Montpelier, Vermont, on July 11. Kylie Cooper/Getty Images

A half dozen extreme rainfall events across the US in the last two weeks have killed at least nine people over the past nine days, and two children are still missing. Now, forecasters are warning of more extreme rain potential.

A Level 3 of 4 — or moderate risk — for excessive rainfall has been issued for portions of four states. Flood watches are also in place for nearly 6 million people in the Northeast as the flood-weary region braces for more rain today.

The areas at moderate risk will face two separate rounds of storms today into tomorrow morning, allowing the same areas to be hit multiple times that could drive rainfall totals up to 8 inches in places where storms get stuck.

The concern is that rainfall could trigger yet another dangerous flood event which are becoming more extreme due to climate change.

There have been six since July 9:

  • Five people were killed, and two children are missing in eastern Pennsylvania after 6 inches of rain swept away vehicles.
  • One person was killed in New York after nearly 8 inches of rain fell in six hours.
  • One person killed in Vermont after more than 5 inches of rain fell in 24 hours.
  • Two people were killed in Oklahoma after 5 inches of rain fell in 12 hours.
  • A flood emergency in Mississippi was declared after 12.91 inches of rain fell mostly over four hours, including 5.64 inches in just one hour.
  • Flood emergencies in Arkansas were declared after 8 to 10 inches of rain flooded roads.
2:03 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

No relief from heat in sight, according to forecast

From CNN's Jennifer Gray

People seeking shelter from the heat rest at a cooling center in Phoenix on July 14.
People seeking shelter from the heat rest at a cooling center in Phoenix on July 14. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

As an unrelenting heat wave enters its 39th consecutive day, millions of people from California to Florida are asking: When will it end?

The long-term forecast looks bleak. For most, the extreme heat will continue for the foreseeable future, with no end in sight for the rest of the month, but there is a brief glimmer of hope for some parts of the country headed into the weekend.

An area from South Texas to Arizona to South Florida has had the worst of it and that will only continue. El Paso, Texas, has been in the triple digits for 32 consecutive days. In Miami, the record warm sea surface temperatures, combined with light winds are causing stifling heat: The heat index there topped 100 degrees or more for a record 37 consecutive days. Phoenix will break the record of 18 consecutive days at or above 110 degrees today and the streak will likely continue for at least another week or more.

Heat dome: An enormous, relentless stubborn ridge of high pressure has trapped air inside in a “heat dome” resulting in extreme temperatures as the dome parks itself over areas.

The heat will remain until a shift in the weather pattern occurs and either breaks apart the heat dome or moves it out of the country completely. That’s not expected any time soon.

Instead, the dangerous heat will continue through this week, with more records broken each day. More than 1,500 heat records have already been broken this month and another 75-plus could fall by the end of the weekend.

The Desert Southwest and Texas will continue to see daytime highs in the triple digits this week. High temperatures along the Gulf Coast and mid-South will be in the upper 90s for the rest of the week, with heat indices as high as 115 degrees. Record-breaking warm low temperatures will provide little relief in what’s typically the coolest time of the day.

Only the Southern Plains and Gulf Coast could see some relief in the coming days as the heat dome shifts back to the west and a cold front advances across the area. By the end of the week, numerous cities will at least temporarily get out of the most intense heat.

Read more here.