Sydney - Australia recorded another year with higher than average temperatures in 2006, according to the annual climate statement by the Weather Bureau released on Wednesday, Australian news reports said.While 2006 was only Australia's 11th warmest year since accurate national figures were first collected in 1910, and slightly cooler than the record-highs set in 2005, the bureau indicated that last year would have been even hotter - had it not been for the severe drought the country has been experiencing for some time.
Cloudless skies and dry soils across the south-east, the bureau said, helped trigger unusually cold nights from April to July.
Clouds at night act as a barrier, keeping in heat built up during the day.
The bureau's report says temperatures across the nation's north were also pushed down by 'a very active tropical wet season early in the year'.
The climate report notes that there have now been more than five straight years of drought in parts of south-eastern and eastern Australia.
'Aspects of this multi-year drought are highly unusual and unprecedented in many areas,' it says.
Among the most affected regions are key water catchments that feed the important Murray and Snowy river systems in the country's south-east, recording their most arid year.
Neil Plummer, a senior climatologist with the Bureau of Meteorology, said the information was consistent with a warming trend.
According to the bureau's annual climate statement Australia's mean temperature last year was 0.47 degrees above the average for 1961 to 1990 - the period now used as the international standard for tracking climate patterns.
As Plummer said, the figures showed that the country had warmed 0.9 degrees during the century, compared with 0.7 to 0.8 degrees for the world.
'Australia is warming slightly faster than the global change,' he said.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur