Global heatwave takes experts by surprise amid worry 'a number of people will die'

The heatwave smashing records around the globe this week has now closed one of the most popular tourist attractions - the Acropolis.

Tourists in Europe have been collapsing in temperatures over 40C with worse to come - in Sicily it's expected to reach 48C.

A hundred million Americans are under a heat alert where outdoor working conditions have become dangerous to health.

The temperatures being recorded have taken even climate scientists by surprise. Senior marine, atmosphere and earth scientist Brian McNoldy said "it's hard to wrap your head around" and "it doesn't seem real".

In the shadow of an iconic landmark that attracts 17,000 people a day, tourists pour out and not in, leaving the Acropolis in Greece deserted and basking in the heat.

"It was really hot, I was sweating bullets up there," one tourist said.

Over 40C heat caused authorities to shut the gates to the ancient hotspot for five hours. As crowds gathered, waiting to enter out, came the fans and hats with no rain in sight.

The local Red Cross was forced to advise tourists on how to deal with the heat.

"Yesterday we had 40 cases of people feeling dizziness, and dysphoria," one worker said.

Record-breaking temperatures could be seen and felt across southern Europe in the coming days. Italy is staring down the barrel of possible 48C heat with red alert warnings issued for 10 cities including Rome and Florence.

"We're very worried that a number of people will die in this heatwave," Reading University Professor and climate scientist Hannah Cloke said.

"When we saw the heatwave last summer in 2022, it's estimated that over 60,000 people died in that heatwave across Europe."

It's not just Europe feeling the heat, America is too. Over 100 million Americans were under heat alerts on Saturday (NZ time) from Washington State to Florida.

And it's a world record that could be reached soon in California's Death Valley. It's predicted to hit 55C.

As people find ways to cool off, below the surface coral reefs and marine life are at risk with sea temperatures off the coast of Florida hitting 32C.

"When you have enough corals dying on a reef it becomes an existential crisis for the coral reef ecosystem itself," said NOAA coral reef watch director Derek Manzello.

As the Earth swelters, life is affected under the sea and above.