SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Average temperatures in China fell last year compared with 2015, the country's weather bureau said on Tuesday, adding that the rainfall levels recorded were the highest ever due to climate change and the El Nino effect.
Total rainfall hit 6.9 trillion cubic meters in 2016, up 13 percent from the previous year, and the highest since they started keeping records in 1961, said Song Lianchun, director, China Meteorological Administration.
In its 2016 climate bulletin, the administration said average temperatures were the third highest on record last year, behind 2015 and 2007. However, temperatures in December were the highest on record for the month, contributing to the build-up of hazardous smog in large parts of the country.
Song told a press briefing that extreme weather events were numerous in 2016. Rainstorms were at their strongest frequency since 1961, while China's longest river - the Yangtze - suffered its worst floods since 1998.
"Extreme weather has a certain connection with global warming," Song said, adding that high-temperature days in China had risen 40 percent in just over 50 years, while typhoon speeds had also soared.
China has blamed "unfavorable weather conditions" for the extreme levels of air pollution that hit large parts of northern China beginning late December, with low-wind speeds and high-winter temperatures stopping pollution from being fully dispersed.
"In fact, our country's overall climate and weather conditions are not very conducive for the dispersal of fog and smog - that is based on science," Song said.
"Looking at the long-term global warming trends, meteorological conditions are becoming an increasingly important factor in the formation of fog and smog, and furthermore, fog and smog are not unique to China," he added.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)