China, already enduring its coldest winter in 20 years, is preparing for a cold snap that will see temperatures drop by as much as 16 degrees Centigrade (29 degrees Fahrenheit).

Northern China, where temperatures are already as low as minus 15-20 degrees Celsius, will feel the strongest effects of the cold front, which is sweeping in from Mongolia and western Siberia, the China Daily reported.

In the capital of Beijing, which enjoyed a relatively warm start to the New Year with temperatures just above freezing, the thermometer is expected to plunge 10 degrees on Monday night, according to the paper.

The Beijing News advised the city's residents to return home from New Year holidays early on Monday to avoid expected overnight snowfalls.

Even in the warmer southern regions, the temperatures are expected to drop sharply.

"Upon the heels of the cold front ... more snowfall can be expected in the north with rain or snow flurries possible in the south," the paper quoted Yang Guiming, a senior official with the Central Meteorological Office, as saying.

Wang Bangzhong, a deputy director with the China Meteorological Administration, said temperatures across China had already been 1.5 degrees lower than the historical average throughout December.

"China is experiencing the coldest winter in 20 years," Wang told the paper.

He said three more successive "winter freezes" were expected to affect China during January, usually the coldest month of the year.