Weather: Extreme temperatures scorch southern Europe as El Niño combines with climate change

A sweltering heatwave across parts of southern Europe continues to bring boiling temperatures, with Italy set to be one of the worst-affected countries. 

It's experiencing the flow-on effects from El Niño coupled with climate change, resulting in extreme temperatures soaring past 40C.

While Rome is renowned for its rich history, the water refill stations fountains, fans and spots of shade are among the main tourist attractions this summer. 

"We expected heat but not this hot," said one local. 

With the temperature at a sweltering 39C, police are on patrol at the Trevi Fountain, cracking down on illegal bathing, a fineable offence. 

"I wish I could take a dip in the fountain back there," said one tourist 

"It's hot and we are from Cannes," said another. 

"We were meant to go to Amalfi Coast, [but] I had to cancel it because it's quite hot out there at the moment," another said. 

But it's only expected to get worse.

The forecast is particularly complicated and particularly critical for Tuesday and Wednesday, one researcher at Italy's National Council said. 

That prompted authorities to issue 17 red alerts for cities across the country. 

And it's not just Italy - wild fires ignited in the Canary Islands and Athens, while an intense heatwave is scorching parts of China and nearly 90 million Americans are under heat alerts. 

NIWA's principal scientist Chris Brandolino told Newshub it's a by-product of naturally occurring things such as El Niño. 

"You get unusually warm ocean temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific and that heat tends to get redistributed around the globe," he said.

"So you take something that happens naturally and you throw in the background climate change, these are the results."

And currently, El Niño conditions are emerging in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The sea surface temperature has reached 1C above average.

In terms of our summer, Brandolino told Newshub it's too early for an outlook just yet. 

"It is useful to take a step back and say what are the expected climate drivers as we walk our way through spring and into summer and that is expected to be El Niño. You look back at history, El Niño means is that we tend to get more west winds in the summertime," he said.

"You do have a set-up where if you get the right airflow, you can get some extreme air temperatures."

But Brandolino said no El Niño is the same, each has a personality of its own, just like the countries currently experiencing extreme heat.