Calima Tenerife: Do’s and Don’ts
The atmospheric phenomenon of “la calima” occurs several times a year in all the Canary Islands, including Tenerife. But what is Tenerife’s calima? Why does the calima happen, and what are its health effects? How long does it last? What should you do if a Señora Calima visits Tenerife during your island holiday? Let’s find out all about it!
1 | What is a Calima Tenerife?
So let’s get to know Her Highness Señora Calima 🙂
“La Calima” is a natural phenomenon when the wind blows from the African desert and brings sand to Tenerife and the other Canary Islands. It’s a type of sandstorm.
The scientific explanation is:
The Calima (also known as haze or suspended dust) is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs in the atmosphere and is characterised by the presence of microscopic particles of dust and sand (and sometimes even ash and clay) in suspension that are sufficiently numerous to give the air an opaque appearance.
A Calima is usually not harmful, but it can sometimes carry harmful particles from factories, nuclear power plants, or oil refineries.
Suspended dust during the calima consists of aluminosilicates (aluminum oxide and silica), clay, gypsum, calcite, and other minerals. It also contains microscopic particles of bacteria, fungi, pollen, and pollutants that are emitted by industrial plants in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
2| Types of Calimas
If you notice a haze on the horizon, the neighbouring Canary Islands are no longer visible, and the mountains have become foggy, these are the first signs that the calima is coming to Tenerife. One of the most obvious distinctive signs that the Calima has begun is the blurred line between the sea and the horizon. During the Calima, it is difficult to tell where the sea ends, and the sky begins.
The temperature rises by 2-3 degrees, and the air becomes dry – this is what a calima looks like in its mild form. Fortunately, this is the most common form of calima. Most tourists don’t notice it at all and continue sunbathing on the beach, swimming, or surfing. However, doctors recommend limiting your physical activity and time outdoors, even during a mild calima. Read more about this below.
The calima sometimes can be more intense. A hot and strong wind is added to the above phenomena, and there is not just smoke on the horizon, but the whole sky turns a nasty greyish-red colour. Everything becomes covered in reddish dust, even the furniture in the flat if the windows are not closed.
Calima as an Emergency
And very rarely, there is the very hardcore calima on Tenerife. It looks like this: garden furniture flying, everything is orange outside the window, sun loungers floating in pools, and tables and chairs in some cafes flying away in an unknown direction without a trace.
In short, it’s a kind of apocalypse.
The reason for this is the sirocco wind, which is awful. It’s an extreme scalding wind as if the temperature were 100 degrees. This type of calima is like a real sand invasion. It’s impossible to breathe, and it’s hot as hell. Thank goodness this kind of calima happens very, very rarely, once every few years.
3 | Why Does a Calima Occur?
The reason is that the Canary Islands are very close to the African continent. The closest island to Africa, Fuerteventura, is only 30 km away. Sandstorms often occur in the Sahara Desert. A westerly wind blows fine African sand across the ocean and hangs in the air over the Canary Islands, creating a haze. As a result, temperatures rise, and the sun appears as a white globe behind a heavy cloud cover.
The following two climatological factors need to coexist for a calima to occur:
Desert sandstorms in Africa, which cause sand particles to hang in huge quantities in the air.
A westerly or southerly wind that carries all this dust to the Canary Islands.
Depending on the direction of the wind, the calima can reach mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands, France, and even central European countries.
The calima is independent of the time of year, and it is impossible to predict when it will arrive in the Canary Islands. The law is simple: as soon as a strong wind blows in Africa, the calima comes to Tenerife.
Scientists have calculated that the calima brings up to 1.5 million tonnes of sand a year to the Canary Islands.
4| Is a Calima Dangerous To Health?
The main impact of a calima is a deterioration in air quality. In addition, a kind of haze makes visibility difficult over long distances, posing a danger to drivers.
Depending on the intensity of the calima, the haze can be more or less noticeable. Also, as you can imagine, the calima leaves streets, cars, and houses full of dust.
As I wrote above, the mild form of the calima is not a health hazard, and most people feel just fine.
But a calima can also affect the health of people from sensitive groups.
The calima-sensitive groups of people are:
- Infants and young children
- Pregnant women
- Older people
- People with respiratory and heart illnesses.
In sensitive people, the calima can cause symptoms such as coughing, breathing problems, stuffy nose, and eye irritation.
Some people get headaches and allergies. Some people find it difficult to sleep, especially if the calima happens in summer and there is no air conditioning in the flat or hotel.
If the calima is very severe and lasts for several days, some people with pre-existing medical conditions may experience bronchospasm (severe breathing problems), chest pain, and asthma. In addition, anxiety crises may occur.
5 | Do’s And Don’ts When There Is Calima In Tenerife
Don’t do sports outdoors. Running, Cycling, exercising during this time can’t be good for your lungs.
If the calima is severe, it is best not to go out too much. The wind often carries not only sand but also hazardous emissions from the African continent. The air becomes dirty and unhealthy.
If you have to go outside, it is advisable to wear a mask. Note that particles smaller than ten microns enter our bodies through the respiratory tract, reaching your lungs and, therefore, the bloodstream. Wear a quality mask with a high level of protection, and nothing harmful will enter your bloodstream.
Close doors and windows.
Drink water regularly, plenty of water.
Clean surfaces in your flat or hotel with a damp cloth.
If you belong to a risk group, it is a good idea to stay in an air-conditioned hotel.
Air conditioning not only helps maintain a comfortable room temperature but also helps purify the air and remove dust, pathogenic bacteria, and viruses.
Note that air conditioning is quite rare in Tenerife (especially in the apartments) as temperatures are comfortable all year round, and there are rarely periods of extreme heat. But there are still many hotels in Tenerife that do have air conditioning such as Sunset Bay Club By Diamond Resorts, Sol Tenerife and Dreams Jardin Tropical Resort & Spa.
Moisturise your eyes with eye drops or ‘artificial tears’.
If you have allergies or lung problems, take antihistamines and an inhaler.
Most locals either just wait out the calima at home or head to the mountains. Below, on the beach, the sky can be red and hazy. But go as high as 1000m up in places like Santiago del Teide, and you’re back to seeing blue skies again.
Some people simply get in their car, turn on the air conditioning, and drive to authentic mountain villages. Having a car makes life better when the calima arrives in Tenerife. Read here about how to rent a car in Tenerife.
6 | Where To Monitor The Calima Forecast?
To mitigate the effects of the calima, it’s important to keep an eye on the weather forecast and prepare for it if you’re in a risk group.
Here are some trusted, reliable resources to monitor the calima forecast:
Here you can find not only the most reliable weather forecasts but also keep up-to-date with meteorological warnings.
Apalmet is a portal where useful meteorological data is available for Canarian meteorology enthusiasts.
This website forecasts the movement of the calima from Africa to the Canary Islands.
- The IQ Air Airvisual website or the app
Here you can read in detail about the different particle sizes in the air.
The website and the app have an option: dust mass. In the 3-day forecast, you can usually see if the dust mass in the air is increasing.
I have tried to give as much practical information as possible so that you can prepare for the calima in Tenerife. I hope you have found it useful.
Many locals consider the calima a disadvantage of living in Tenerife. Others, on the other hand, don’t notice or pay any attention to it at all. It depends on the state of your health.
And on a final note, not everything about the calima is negative.
Many travellers see the calima as a colourful feature of exotic Tenerife.
A positive aspect of the calima is the spectacular sunsets, full of reds and oranges that you can’t see anywhere else.
The calima allows keen photographers to take the most amazing, surreal pictures and gives travellers the chance to feel like real dune dwellers.
After all, Tenerife is an exotic destination with an African flavour.