Intense Saharan Dust over Canary Islands

calima-over-canaries-25122016December 25 across The Canary Islands was marked by intense clouds of Saharan dust blown out over the Atlantic ocean and the archipelago by strong winds from the east.

Particle counts in the air worsened throughout the day to reach up to 17 times higher than the recommended safe limits established for good health, resulting in the Spanish State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) declaring a yellow advisory throughout the archipelago for visibility of less than 3,000 meters.

That advisory is expected to stay in place at least until the end of Tuesday, along with an advisory today for strong winds gusting up to 70km/h at the summits, making for a blustery day in most places, particularly on North, East and Southern slopes.

dust-concentrations-athen-university-261216The highest recorded concentrations so far today have come from the team at Athens University, who keep a constant monitor on the Saharan Air Layer, with suspended dust particles smaller than 10 microns in diameter, known as PM10s, reaching more than 600 micrograms per cubic meter ( mg/m3 ).  Yesterday that number reached up to 878 mg/m3 in the capital Las Palmas, which is 17 times higher than the maximum value  established as safe for human health, according to information provided by the Government of the Canary Islands.

50 mg/mis the limit established by European regulations for airborne particles like soot or dust which, according to the World Health Organisation, “aggravates the risk of developing heart disease and lung disease, as well as lung cancer” for anyone regularly exposed levels about it. To put that in context New Delhi (India), one of the most polluted cities in the world, recorded 336 mg/m3 yesterday and Beijing in China recorded levels up to 403.

With large volumes of dust concentrated near ground level across the Sahara, the highest value recorded today over the islands stood at 600 mg/m3 and over the North African desert itself levels of almost 2340 mg/m3 were recorded.

maspalomas-dunes-calimaIt is for this reason AEMET activated their yellow advisory predicting visibility of less than 3,000 meters. Though Gran Canaria airport actually saw visibility reduced to just 1,100 meters yesterday afternoon, according to Metar, which collects meteorological reports from airports around the world to transmit to aircraft.

And according to reports the worst may be yet to come. Forecasters are expecting a greater concentration of airborne dust as of today while the wind continues to blow from the East. The current forecast is that south easterly winds on Wednesday are likely to begin to reduce the amount of dust in the air.

Those with respiratory issues are advised to stay indoors with doors and windows shut. Calima is expected to last several days with winds dying down to just 20km/h and continuing to blow dust directly from the Saharan desert.

The weather will be dry with Temperatures of between 15º & 21ºC with increasing sunshine and blue skies as we move through the week.