Last update: October 17th, 2019 at 9:00 am
In early March 2016, news agencies and bloggers in the Canary Islands reported the arrival of the first calima of the year. La Calima, as it is locally known, is a weather event of strong, often easterly, wind that carries dust and sand, along with a blast hot air, from Africa over the Canary Islands. The strong winds are usually generated by a high-pressure system over Northern Africa or the Sahara, or a passing cold front north of the islands. The fine yellow haze that coats the islands during La Calima can cause respiratory problems in humans and animals, and can cause damage to machinery, or to the fine optics found in the observatories scattered across the Canary Islands.
On March 2, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite flew over western Africa and captured a true-color image of the massive dust storm that triggered the calima warnings. Strong winds across Western Sahara lifted a blanket of dust and sand from the arid land and carried it across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Canary Islands.
African is the world’s largest source of dust to the atmosphere, contributing about 70 percent of the global total.