SPAIN’S meteorology office has found 2006 was the country’s hottest year on record.

The average temperature last year was 21.3 degrees Celsius (70.3 degrees Farenheit) – a rise of more than 1 degree C from the average in previous years and the highest since records began in 1961.

The annual mean temperature in 2006 was 1.3 C higher than the average between 1961 and 1990, according to the data released on January 9.

The months between March and November were, on average, 1.4C warmer than previous years. However, the winter months of January, February and December were cooler than the norm.

Arturo Gonzalo Aizpiri of the Prevention of Climatic Change, a government backed study group, said: “This is a striking phenomenon. Temperatures in the hotter summer months in 2006 were higher than normal while the colder months were colder than the 1961 to 1990 period.”

According to the data, the Mediterranean coast of the country was classified as “extremely hot” while the Atlantic coasts and the regions bordering Portugal were “very hot.”

2006 was also the driest year in Spain since records began.

Meanwhile, global temperatures are set to rise in 2007 as a result of the greenhouse effect, according to a leading UK weather expert.

Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, warned a combination of global warming and the adverse weather conditions caused by the El Niño Pacific current of water mean this year will be the hottest on record.

Speaking in the UK newspaper The Independent, Professor Jones said: “El Niño makes the world warmer and we already have a warming trend that is increasing global temperatures by one to two tenths of a degrees celsius per decade. Together, they should make 2007 warmer than last year and it may even make the next 12 months the warmest year on record.”

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