The noughties were the warmest decade on record in New Zealand, although last year was cooler than average, latest climate figures from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) show.

The years 2000-2009 were slightly warmer than the 1980s, which were previously the warmest decade on record and now ranked second ahead of the 1970s and 1990s.

Data on temperature change across the decade was first collected in New Zealand in the 1960s.

The warmer climate was due to a combination of natural variability and a background warming trend, Niwa principal scientist James Renwick said.

The findings were in line with a World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) prediction that the 2000s would be the warmest decade on record for worldwide average temperatures, he said.

However, a WMO prediction that 2009 would be the warmest year on record was not borne out in New Zealand, which saw slightly cooler than average temperatures.

New Zealand also missed out on much of the extreme weather which last year caused devastating floods, severe droughts, and storms in many parts of the world.

China suffered its worst drought in 50 years, while tropical cyclones lashed the Pacific, causing floods which left 900 dead in the Philippines.

Niwa's full summary of the New Zealand climate last year is due next week.