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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9:37 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

China's ancient Silk Road murals threatened by climate change, researchers find

From CNN's Alex Stambaugh and Nectar Gan

Ancient Buddhist murals and statues in caves along China’s Silk Road are under “direct threat” from extreme rainfall brought by climate change, researchers have found.

Dating back to the 4th century, the Dunhuang cave temples in the northwestern province of Gansu have withstood wars, earthquakes, sandstorms and vandalism for more than a millennium.

But now, changing weather patterns in the desert are posing significant damage to the fragile wall paintings and sculptures – including at the famous Mogao Grotto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, according to a report released Monday by Greenpeace.

“Gansu is famous for its caves and the art stored inside them for centuries,” said Li Zhao, a senior researcher in Greenpeace East Asia’s Beijing office. “Increased bouts of rainfall in the desert pose an acute risk. Spikes in humidity, flash floods, and cave ins are already happening.”

Over the past two decades, Gansu has seen an increase in total rainfall but a drop in the number of rainy days, resulting in more bouts of intense downpours. Temperatures in the province have also been rising faster than the global average, according to the report.

The artworks in some caves, including the Mogao Grotto, have already shown signs of deterioration. And some artifacts could be gone in a few years, the report warned.

Rising humidity has accelerated the crystallization and build up of salt on the murals’ surface, causing them to flake and peel. Rainwater leaks have also eroded the paintings, while flash floods and mudslides caused some caves to collapse, the report added.

The report comes as China is conducting its fourth nationwide cultural heritage survey to log the state of the country’s historical artifacts.

But Li warned that by the time the survey is completed, some of Gansu’s precious artifacts could already be gone.

“While we’re still working to document, understand, and conserve these pieces of our history, they’re dissolved before our very eyes. This is a painful reality of the impact of climate change,” Li said.

Read more here

8:19 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Record-breaking heat, floods, wildfires: Catch up on the extreme weather impacting millions across the globe

From CNN staff

Record-high temperatures scorched countries around the world on Tuesday, including Italy and France, while wildfires continue to burn in Greece and Canada.

The extreme heat will also continue for the foreseeable future in the United States. 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.

Here's what weather conditions are like across the globe:

  • United States: El Paso, Texas, has been in the triple digits for 33 consecutive days. Phoenix, Arizona, reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 Celsius) by noon Tuesday, stretching its streak of days at more than 110 degrees to a record 19 days. High ocean temperatures in southeast Florida are putting coral reefs in danger, with some areas reaching more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch said. In addition to the heat, half dozen extreme rainfall events in other parts of the country have killed at least nine people over the past nine days, and two children are still missing, officials said.
  • Canada: A 9-year-old boy died last week in British Columbia after having an asthma attack during the ongoing wildfires in Canada. More than 900 wildfires are burning across the country, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre’s website. Parts of many states in the northeastern US, such as New YorkPennsylvania, and New Jersey, are under some sort of air quality alert, according to the National Weather Service.  
  • Italy: Rome registered a record high temperature for the city at 107.2 degrees Fahrenheit (41.8 degrees Celsius), the regional meteorological agency said. The heat wave is the main reason behind a 20% increase in the number of patients visiting emergency hospital rooms in recent days, the country's health minister said, urging people with respiratory problems to avoid going outside.
  • Greece: Wildfires continue to rage near the capital city of Athens and in other parts of the country. The majority of the fire service is now focusing on a large blaze that broke out late Monday in the area of Dervenochoria, north of Athens, which is still spreading and heading southwest. Resources are being sent to help fight the fires.
  • France: A total of nine areas in southern France recorded new record-high temperatures on Tuesday, according to the French weather agency Météo France. Officials in Paris said they are closely monitoring what the heat wave may mean for next year’s Olympic Games, calling it “an increasingly central topic.”
  • India: Waters from India’s flooded Yamuna River reached the compound walls of the iconic Taj Mahal on Tuesday. The river overflowed near the Indian capital of New Delhi, prompting authorities to evacuate tens of thousands of people. 
  • Iraq: Temperatures in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and other provinces in the south soared to nearly 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) this week, according to the Iraqi General Authority for Meteorology and Seismic Monitoring. Baghdad residents say that power cuts have made dealing with the heat more difficult because they desperately need fans and air conditioning. 

Looking ahead: The European Union’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre has issued a red alert warning for Wednesday. The alert covers "most of Italy, eastern Croatia, southern Spain, southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro," the agency said.

The climate crisis: These temperatures are “almost certainly” the warmest temperatures the planet has seen “probably going back at least 100,000 years,” Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at Woodwell Climate Research Center, previously told CNN. Extreme heat occurring in countries across the globe is "dangerous" and a "rapidly growing health risk," warned John Nairn of the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization.

8:06 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

At least 1 person treated for “heat-related discomfort” on Delta flight due to hot cabin temperatures

From CNN’s Gregory Wallace and Taylor Romine 

A Delta Airlines logo is seen on a passenger plane, in Washington DC, on February 16.
A Delta Airlines logo is seen on a passenger plane, in Washington DC, on February 16. Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A Delta flight in Las Vegas was canceled on Monday after a passenger was treated for "heat-related discomfort" due to warm temperatures in the cabin, the airline said.

Harry Reid International Airport recorded temperatures over 100 degrees on Monday, with a high of 115 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. 

The flight experienced “uncomfortable temperatures inside the cabin,” Delta Airlines said in a statement Tuesday. It was scheduled to fly from Las Vegas to Atlanta, but was ultimately canceled, the airline said, but they did not share any other details about the flight. 

Delta did not say how long the plane was on the tarmac or how warm the plane cabin was.   

“Delta teams are looking into the circumstances that led to uncomfortable temperatures inside the cabin and we appreciate the efforts of our people and first responders at Harry Reid International," the statement said.

Medical teams responded to a call aboard an aircraft Monday afternoon, according to Joe Rajchel, Harry Reid International Airport public information administrator. CNN has also reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration for comment. 

The customers on the flight received a direct apology and compensatory offer for their experience and were accommodated on other flights, Delta said. 

7:14 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Miami-Dade County considers heat protection ordinance for outdoor workers

From CNN’s Carlos Suarez

Miami-Dade County could soon mandate certain protections from the heat for outdoor workers including breaks in the shade and water while on the job.

On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance that gives workers the right to take a 10-minute break to drink water and rest in the shade every two hours if the heat index rises above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The ordinance needs to clear a second vote in the coming weeks before going into effect. 

Companies would be required to train workers and supervisors about heat illness, and under the ordinance, businesses must maintain at least one area with shade that is “open to the air or offer ventilation or cooling at all times in the area where employees are working.” 

Businesses would face fines up to $3,000 per violation.

WeCount, an organization of agriculture, construction, and domestic workers, has lobbied for the protections since 2021 as part of its “¡Qué Calor!” campaign.

At a news conference after the vote, organizers said the protections are life-saving for “over 100,000 outdoor workers” in Miami-Dade.

Miami has gone 37 record-breaking consecutive days with a heat index of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.

On Sunday, The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Miami-Dade, which is the first time the county has been under such an alert. Due to the warning, county officials opened 14 cooling centers. 

7:49 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

Iraq continues to suffer power cuts in extreme heatwave

From CNN's Celine Alkhaldi, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Aqeel Najim 

An Iraqi security forces member rinses his face with water from a bottle to cool off during a demonstration against water scarcity and power outages in Baghdad, on Tuesday.
An Iraqi security forces member rinses his face with water from a bottle to cool off during a demonstration against water scarcity and power outages in Baghdad, on Tuesday. Murtaja Lateef/AFP/Getty Images

Temperatures in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and other provinces in the south soared to nearly 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) this week as an ongoing heat wave strikes the country once again this summer, according to the Iraqi General Authority for Meteorology and Seismic Monitoring.

Extreme heat has paralyzed Iraq for years, particularly during the months of July and August. Last week, the UN warned that some parts of Iraq are suffering the worst heat wave in 40 years, reporting a drastic drop in water levels.

The UN has previously ranked Iraq as one of the world's five countries most impacted by some effects of climate change.

The lack of power in Iraq is a decades-long issue in the country and is especially unnerving during the country's searing summers.

Baghdad residents told CNN that power cuts during the summer have made dealing with extremely high temperatures more difficult because they desperately need fans and air conditioning. 

Baghdad gets between eight to 12 hours of city power.

"It is really tough, as you can imagine, dealing with the cuts in summer when we need it," Hassan Al Rahim told CNN Tuesday.

"What we try to do is stay home and drink cold liquids. We have no choice," Rahim said, adding that Iraqis "are used to it." 

Earlier this month, hundreds of Iraqis took to the streets to protest deteriorating power cuts amid rising temperatures.

Iraqis mainly blame the government for its reliance on energy imports from Iran and for failing to develop its own grid to serve its population. Many Iraqis rely on local power generators to make up for electrical shortages, but they complain of the high monthly cost.

Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said Iraq will begin trading crude oil for Iranian gas to settle a dispute over payments for earlier shipments of natural gas from Iran to Iraq.

Iraq had a previous arrangement with Iran buy purchasing gas from Iran and paying dollars, but it was put on hold because the US declined to approve sanctions waivers.

6:08 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

9-year-old in British Columbia dies after asthma attack amid Canadian wildfire smoke, parents say

From CNN's Sara Smart

A 9-year-old boy died last week in British Columbia after having an asthma attack during the ongoing wildfires in Canada.

Carter Vigh had asthma his entire life and always carried his inhaler, his parents, James and Amber Vigh, told CNN Canadian partner, CBC. Carter’s parents told CBC their son died July 11 after visiting the emergency room for an asthma attack.

While his cause of death has not been determined yet, the BC Coroners Service said in a Monday afternoon bulletin that it is investigating his death as “related to an existing medical condition aggravated by wildfire smoke.”

Carter was at a water park with friends earlier in the day when the air was clearer and then went to a birthday party, his parents told CBC. “He had a great day,” said Amber Vigh. “I had no indication he was struggling in any way.”

Carter began coughing in the evening, and his parents gave him his inhaler and advised him to concentrate on his breathing.

The coughing worsened, so they took Carter to the hospital where they said he later lost consciousness.

“Our communities are now becoming more aware of the risks presented by wildfire smoke and the measures that can be taken to reduce those risks,” the coroner’s service said.

Children can have a harder time breathing when the air quality is bad due to how small their airways are, CNN previously reported. The lungs in children are not fully developed either, which adds to the difficulty.

As of Tuesday, more than 900 wildfires are burning across Canada, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre’s website. So far, at least two firefighters have died battling the wildfires.

6:31 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

California mountain biker dies after stopping to help hikers with heat exhaustion

From CNN's Laura Studley 

A 24-year-old mountain biker died Saturday after stopping to help a group of hikers in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is located about an hour and a half east of San Diego, California, according to CalFire.

The San Diego Medical Examiner's Office identified the biker as Otay Mesa resident Kai Torres Bronson on Tuesday. 

His cause of death is pending at this time, according to the medical examiners office, but it is "highly likely" that he died from the intense heat, CalFire Capt. Brent Pascua said. He added that it was 110 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday when Torres Bronson was found.

About five miles into the Goat Canyon Trestle Trail, the four hikers found themselves in "bad shape" after running out of water and food, Pascua said.

A group of four mountain bikers found them and split up to get help, Pascua told CNN. Pascua said two bikers went to the top of the trailhead and called authorities.

After receiving a call to assist the San Diego Sheriff's Office (SDSO), CalFire sent a ground crew and helicopter. The hikers were later airlifted to the trailhead where they were met by an ambulance, Pascua said.  

Torres Bronson and the biker who had remained with the hikers began to ride back up to the trailhead, but got separated, Pascua told CNN.

Torres Bronson was found unresponsive a quarter mile down the trail. He was carried back up the trailhead, where he was later pronounced dead, Pascua added.

Earlier that day, Torres Bronson and his friends went to Jacumba Hot Springs for a mountain bike ride and rode from their meeting point close to Interstate Route 8 to Goat Canyon Trestle, according to a summary from the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Torres Bronson had "complained of feeling tired and stayed behind while a friend went to retrieve water for him," according to the summary. The biker had collapsed multiple times along the way "to return to the meeting point" until he "ultimately became unresponsive."

It is not clear if the meeting point was the trailhead. It is also not clear if the friend who went to get water went to the trailhead, where he was met by CalFire authorities. CNN has reached out to SDSO and the medical examiner's office for clarification.

SDSO has taken over the investigation, according to Pascua.

He urged people to bring more water than they think they may need before hiking in the heat and to research the trails before heading out.

4:36 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

UN weather agency calls extensive heatwaves this year "alarming, but not surprising"

From CNN’s Sugam Pokharel

People sit in a room at a cooling center in Phoenix, Arizona, on July 16.
People sit in a room at a cooling center in Phoenix, Arizona, on July 16. Megan Mendoza/USA Today Network/Reuters

The severe heatwaves that many parts of the world are currently facing are "alarming, but not surprising," the United Nations' weather agency said.

“Global temperatures have been at unprecedented levels for several weeks. The extensive and intense heatwaves this year are alarming, but not surprising because unfortunately the conditions being observed are in accordance with projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in a statement

There is currently a simultaneous heat wave phenomenon occurring, with temperatures in North America, parts of Asia, and across North Africa and the Mediterranean above 40 degrees Celsius (or about 104 degrees Fahrenheit) for a prolonged number of days this week, the WMO said. 

“These types of events are very concerning and have increased sixfold since the 1980s,” the organization added. 

Overnight minimum temperatures are expected to reach new highs, the WMO also noted, adding that high overnight temperatures are "particularly dangerous for human health because the body is unable to recover from hot days, leading to increased cases of heart attacks and death."

"Whilst most of the attention focuses on daytime maximum temperatures, it is the overnight temperatures which have the biggest health risks, especially for vulnerable populations,” the WMO said.

The agency's Secretary General Petteri Taalas called for the intensification of efforts to "help society adapt to what is unfortunately becoming the new normal."

3:58 p.m. ET, July 18, 2023

El Paso hits 100 degrees for 33rd consecutive day

El Paso, Texas has already hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit today and is forecast to reach up to 110 degrees this afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

This marks the 33rd consecutive day El Paso has topped the century mark.

An excessive heat warning in the city remains in effect through Thursday. Temperatures are not expected to be quite as high this weekend, and there is a chance the streak could end as the weather service is only forecasting a high of 100 Saturday.