Fuerteventura boats a temperate climate all year long. However, at certain times of year we find ourselves in the middle of a natural phenomenon where the clear blue skies disappear and are laden with what looks like a mass of dusty clouds, casting an almost ethereal glow across the sky. This is known as a ‘Calima’, but what actually is it?
World Wide Winds
Wind occurs worldwide in a range of different forms and is measured on a range of scales, usually determined by their strength, duration and direction. For example a ‘Gust’ is the term used to describe a short burst of strong wind, where a longer yet still as powerful wind is normally referred to as a ‘Squall’. Winds across the world vary by region, topography of the land and temperature, and other global forces such as atmospheric circulation, climate zones and solar energy also come in to play. Certain areas of the earth’s surface often experience the same types of wind called ‘prevailing winds’ that are specific to that particular area and occur on a regular basis and so a local name is given to it. The ‘Calima’ is one such wind.
Saharan Air Layer
The Calima is actually caused by a storm or change in weather that affects the Saharan Air Layer. This is a hot, dry and dust filled system which is situated above the Sahara desert and the more humid and colder system of the Atlantic Ocean. A storm in Africa can push the Saharan dust cloud right out to sea, in a south easterly or easterly direction. Scientists have actually found particles of dust from the Sahara Desert as far west as Puerto Rico in the North Eastern Caribbean.
The Dust Cloud
The Canary Islands are directly in the path that this dust cloud will travel and what we experience is the ‘Calima’ the younger brother of the more common Saharan wind ‘the Sirocco’. This cloud can last anything from a few hours to a week, with temperatures rising and dust particles dropping from the sky and leaving a sandy layer over everything. Many people will experience respiratory problems and itchy eyes during a Calima, but the most common form of complaint is unsurprisingly sunburn. The worst reported case of a calima causing disruption in the Canaries was back in 2002 when the Airport in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, had to close temporarily due to the visibility dropping to less than 50 metres making it dangerous or planes to land and take off.