Blog What is a Calima in the Canary Islands

What is a Calima in the Canary Islands

All of The Canary Islands periodically struggle with calimas, usually in the colder months.

The calima itself is a hot oppresive wind that takes place when there is high pressure over the African Sahara Desert.

Subsequently it drives a southerly wind in the direction of Lanzarote and other Canary Islands, bringing Saharan temperature levels and lots of light dusty sand along with it.

So what does a Calima Look and Feel Like?

Throughout a calima the air turns a hazy white or even a yellow colour.  That's not all. You can actually smell the desert sand in the air while it creates a very odd visual effect (as can be seen in the photos below)

Typically the temperature will steadily rise to very high degrees during a calima, as well as people have a tendency to stay inside and get the aircon on or try to get an airflow through the home.

Daytime tempertature levels of 45 degrees have been known to occur during a calima, continuing into the night and usually not falling by a great deal until it's over.

The phenomenon can be seen on satellite photos, appearing as a cloud like swirl throughout the islands, which basically traps the heat close to ground level.

The days prior to a calima are often very clear and oddly still. In winter season they are often accompanied just afterwards with rain, which is a very welcome relief from the high pressure and heat.

Effects of Calima on Nature and Wildlife in Lanzarote and the Canary Islands

Sometime's external Insectos (insects) accompany or are reluctantly transported by the winds.

In recent years we have had visitors in the form of locusts, ladybirds as well as dragonflies that show up on the island of Lanzarote.

They seldom last here for very long however, as there is so little for them to eat due to the rocky desert nature of Lanzarote. Often, unusual birds are blown over on the wind too, who soon find their way back on track naturally.

Dangers of Calima When They Occur

Periodically, a calima can be very extreme, leading to the closure of the flight terminals for instance.

These are rare occurances where aircraft can have difficulty carrying out a visual checks and have been known to be diverted to Fuerteventura or Gran Canaria.

Please don't overly worry however, because airport terminal closures are very rare occurancances as we said. Although the calimas themselves are unusual weather events, they are quite a normal part of life in the Canary Islands and Lanzarote

Human Health Effects of Calima

It can also effect people who suffer from asthma or respiratory illnesses due to the sheer level dusty sand in the atmosphere for the duration of an event.

So, whether you are holidaying or planning to move to Lanzarote, it is worth noting the forecasts when a calima is announced.

If you do suffer with asthma or similar it just means that you can plan ahead and be prepared. 

The high pressure and heat can also have an impact if you are affected by migraine for example. Again, it's just something to take note of. It is well worth working around rather than suffering the consequences for days after a calima has passed whether living here OR holidaying.

Just to point out, many people will actually avoid certain activities due to the intense heat that a calima can produce. External painting/maintenence or being stuck out on a long scenic trek somewhere without an extra supply of water wouldn't be advised for example.

It is probably wise to give heavy activity of any kind a wide berth when you feel them coming on. 

How Long Do Each Calima Generally Last in the Canary Islands? 

A calima can generally last anywhere from half a day to as many as three days.

Consequentially,  every little thing on the island is covered in a film of sand. Following that there is the big tidy up afterwards. You'll see everybody getting out to dust off and clean, pretty quickly removing the sand from outdoor patios, swimming pools and vehicles. It is never a big job, but it can be one of those little annoyances - especially after the car has been through the wash!

In all, it's one of the few annoyances of living in Lanzarote or the Canary Islands however, especially in Lanzarote, where the climate is pretty much, year round perfect.

Afterall, it is not known and the Island of Eternal Spring for no reason!

See more about >> typical weather conditions in Lanzarote

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