Sandstorm from the Sahara hits Spain


For the past couple of days, we have been experiencing a weather phenomenon, known in Spain as a Calima.  This is a sand and dust-laden wind, originating in the Sahara desert in North Africa.

A Calima wind generally raises temperatures but lowers visibility due to the fine yellowish-brown air-borne dust.  You could be forgiven for thinking this was fog or industrial pollution and, indeed, a strong Calima may cause respiratory problems in humans.

Sand storm over Spain via Nasa

This amazing photo by British astronaut, Tim Peake, from the International Space Station shows the huge sandstorm currently engulfing the Iberian peninsula.

The University of Athens forecast of the extent of the Calima

The University of Athens forecast of the extent of the Calima

But it’s not all bad news.

The particles contain vital nutrients and minerals which are good for fertilising both the land and the sea.

Sand settled on the car

This weather phenomenon normally occurs around this time of year and lasts a few days leaving lots of cleaning up to do.

The good news is that the situation should improve by Thursday of this week, as a cold front introduces clearer air.


Have YOU ever experienced an unusual weather phenomenon?


27 thoughts on “Sandstorm from the Sahara hits Spain

  1. Fascinating! I read from somewhere how Saharan dust is feeding nutrients to the Amazon rain forest, but for you that would mean a lot of cleaning!

  2. I am planning to visit Andalusia in late April for a week. Can you give me some recommendations. I will fly to Malaga and want to go to Ronda before driving east to Granada and the Sierra Nevada. I plan to follow in the footsteps of Gerald Brennan. Thanks!

    • Whilst you’re near Ronda, you might like to have a look at Setenil de la Bodegas (where the rocky mountains overhang the houses). How about getting tickets to walk the exciting Caminito del Rey? (between Ardales and El Chorro – a lovely area of turquoise blue lakes near Malaga).

      Malaga is a fantastic city these days, partly thanks to the flourishing international art scene – we have a Pompidou centre, Thyssen museum, Russian museum, Picasso museum plus many more, as well as wonderful street art. The port area is delightful and, of course, you should visit the English Cemetery in Malaga (I love that place) to see Brennan’s last resting place.

      You might want to check out some of the lovely villages east of Malaga, including Comares, Frigiliana, El Acebuchal or Competa.

      A visit to the Alhambra in Granada is always worth it (need to book in advance) and go to the San Nicolas viewpoint for great views over the Alhambra. Visit Sacromonto, the gypsy area of the city, and see authentic flamenco in one of the caves there.

      When you visit the Sierra Nevada (though there might not be much snow then), make sure to take the ski gondola from Pradallano up to the ski area (you don’t need to be a skier to do that).

      That should keep you busy during your week 🙂 Have fun!

        • You’re welcome! OH yes, Malaga is well worth a couple of days – many great tapas bars, too.

          I think there are a few tickets for sale at the Alhambra each morning (very early queuing required), but advance booking ensures you get in (I recommend morning entry). Once inside, make sure you arrive at the Nasrid Palace at your appointed time on the ticket – it’s strictly monitored.

      • Thanks for your helpful advice. My itinerary is now booked. A day along the Costa Del Sol then north to Ronda (2 nights) and then to Antequera with good transport options depending upon weather (1 night) and then finally Romilla near Granada (2 nights). I always prefer small towns to big cities – the accommodation is cheaper! Malaga for the final day and then a late flight home.

  3. Pingback: Una nube de polvo subsahariano barre la península Ibérica | Revista del Aficionado a la Meteorología

  4. Oh wow. We haven’t noticed anything here in the city though. But oh yes Tarifa. Horrid. They seem to live in a perpetual tornado haha. Well I didn’t like the wind there anyways, but I’m not much into wind haha. Gorgeous beaches though.

  5. Hi, Marianne! I live in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and we get the Calima every year. It is amazing that the sand can travel this far, but it does. Our cars and other surfaces get all sandy, and allergies flare up. It lasts several days. If you try to premove it with a cloth the surface gets scratch. So we have to hose it. Did not know you get the Cali a in Spain, and did not know spaniards have a name for it. We don’t. Hope it end soon!

  6. Hello, I have been reading your blog for awhile and my husband and I are currently in Lanjaron where we have rented a cortijo for 6 weeks.  Today we took a drive and, on your recommendation, went to Canillas de Aceituno and had lunch at Asador La Maroma.  It was a lovely day and a delicious meal.   We live in Oregon in the USA and I took notes on a post a few months back and I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog and specifically this recommendation. Take care,Laura

  7. It is amazing how far the sand can blow, as shown in that map from Athens University. I remember a few years ago we had some of that Sahara desert sand in the south of England and all the cars in the neighbourhood were covered in it, but, thank goodness, it doesn’t happen very often. I hope it will all clear and that you’ll see the sun again very soon.

    • You’re right, Fatima – it IS amazing just how far the sand can blow! I can remember when I lived in the UK having some Sahara sand on the car. The sun was out again today – still a bit hazy, but MUCH better than the last couple of days 🙂

  8. In many visits to Spain I’ve never experienced this. My only bad experience with wind and dust was in Tarifa where the weather nearly drove me insane: it certainly drove me away from Tarifa. Lovely, informative article by the way.

    • HA – it’s funny you should mention Tarifa … my hubby and I were only there a couple of weeks ago and the wind was so bad I felt I had been sandblasted. My photos are dreadful. It was such a shame.

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