Monday, March 26, 2012

A Thick African Haze Covers the Islands

La calima is in full force today as the desert sand has created a dense, dusty fog throughout the entire island.  Locals are behaving as they would if storms loomed in the atmosphere all day back home, drizzle dampering people's disposition.  Here the same is true, but with most days being sun filled and mild, the murky tone is unwelcome.  Even our harmonious yoga teacher lacked her usual xenfulness this evening.
Striking satellite image of Sahara sand blowing over Lanzarote

The strange phenomenon called calima, or haze in Enlgish, is a natural weather pattern experienced on the island when the eastern wind blows over the Sahara desert and lifts sand and dust up from the arid land, carrying it a short distance across the sea and engulfing Lanzarote and the surrounding northern Canaries.  Today felt grey and dull from my window, reminding me of a cloudy morning in the States, soon to be followed by a powerful thunderstorm.  But as I stepped outside I was hit by the yellow haze that hung heavy on the horizon, a bizarre image of grainy dust floating in the sky.  Today the wind was more gentle than usual, creating an illusion that I could almost reach out and grab a handful of sky.

This is my second encounter of a day filled with sandy air, as they tend to occur about once a month. Weeks ago, I did not have the privilege to be surrounded by walls as I did today.  Unprepared, I found myself trekking though lava fields, the powerful gusts of wind pushing me back throughout the journey, blasting pieces of powdery land into my unprotected face.  At the conclusion of the day, a single drop of water trickling down my leg changed the tint of my dusty skin to it's normally bronze shade.  My lungs felt as if they were lined with grit, my hair coated with granular fragments.
An attempted photo during calima storm

Beyond a parched throat and layer of filth covering the landscape and all outdoor items, the calima is also responsible for passing on a myriad of pesky illnesses that seem to sneak in and knock the victim off their feet.  Insects and new bacteria and viruses accompany the sand's journey to the island's coast.  The up side to a day like to today is that normally after the eastern winds blow, islanders can look forward to a rare, refreshing rain shower to wash away the dirt and disease.  But with rainfall nearing record lows, hopes of any precipitation are low, and while the tourists can gear up for more sun filled beach days, farmers and locals alike are feeling the adverse effects like never before.

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