‘Several times every spring and autumn, in early mornings, red rain falls on Belgrade, Serbia. The rain gains its unusual colour from dust that originates a thousand kilometres to the south in the Sahara, where hundreds of tons of aerosol microparticles periodically go airborne over the African drylands, most often during dramatic dust events known as haboobs,’ states the introduction of the article published in Physics Today, most influential popular science magazine in the world on physics, founded by the American Physical Society.
The extensive article titled Global observations and improved models track atmospheric dust’, authored by science journalist Slobodan Bubnjević, is dedicated to dust physics research. It is concurrently one of the rare popular science articles in American media signed by an author from Serbia.
As the article states, a recent surge in the general interest in dust, beyond communities of physicists and climate scientists, has boosted the opening of new research fields, and it has also strengthened institutional support for this kind of research.
Dust travels at a high altitude from the Sahara across the Mediterranean and falls on many southern European cities as well, from Belgrade to Madrid and can even reach the Amazon. While they are in the air, dust particles absorb and scatter solar radiation, and they can also nucleate ice, which contributes to the formation of precipitation. When dust falls on polar glaciers, they darken, thus absorbing more solar radiation and melting faster. At the same time, due to other various features of dust, it affects people’s health, air transport, marine life and numerous other fields and phenomena.
Through conversations with some of the leading world physicists in this field, some of which are Slobodan Ničković and Zoran Mijić from the Institute of Physics Belgrade, this article gives a historical overview of dust research, as well as ways of collecting and modelling data transport, paying particular attention to the possibility of dust movement prediction.