Record high temperatures in the Waikato last year provide "good evidence" New Zealand is experiencing warmer temperatures now than it did a century ago, a top scientist says.
New data from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) revealed 2013 was the third-warmest since records began in 1909, and last year's drought one the most extreme in memory.
The hottest year was 1998, followed by 1999.
Drought conditions in the North Island between January and April, were ruinous for Waikato farmers and several parts of the region experienced their driest year on record.
Temperatures nationwide were 0.8 degrees Celsius above the 1971-2000 annual average, but were higher in some areas of the Waikato.
While the national average was 13.4 degrees, NIWA stations at Whitianga and Paeroa recorded temperatures of 15.1C and 14.9C respectively.
Ruakura in Hamilton had an average annual temperature of 14.8C - a one degree departure from normal and its second-highest yearly average recorded. On March 11, Hamilton and Taumarunui notched up their highest March temperatures at 32.6C and 32.4C respectively.
Niwa principal scientist Dr Mike Revell said the record temperatures were further evidence New Zealand was experiencing warmer temperatures.
Dr Revell also said there was an "unusual number" of northerlies in 2013, which brought warm weather to the country.
Waikato, Northland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and isolated areas of the West Coast had below normal rainfall for the year, Niwa's 2013 climate summary said
But Toenepi (near Morrinsville), Taupo and Turangi had their driest year on record, receiving just two-thirds of their normal annual rainfall.
Dr Revell said Niwa had no major predictions of drought-like conditions at this stage, but expected average or above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall for most of country.
The report also said record or near-record high annual sunshine hours were recorded at nine locations across New Zealand, including Turangi.
The highest air temperature was 35.1C recorded at Clyde on January 5, and at Gisborne on January 9 and 10.
- © Fairfax NZ News