RECOGNITIONS: Plinius Medal is awarded to Slobodan Ničković

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Our renowned researcher and associate of the Institute of Physics, Slobodan Ničković, PhD, has won the prestigious Plinius Medal for 2022. As elaborated in the statement, this recognition of the European Geosciences Union (EGU)  was awarded to Dr Ničković ’for pioneering work on modelling sand and dust storms and for significant contributions to the development of a global dust advisory and warning system.’

As one of the leading researchers in the dust process in the atmosphere, Dr Ničković has intensively collaborated with the Institute of Physics, Belgrade, both through formal projects and close cooperation with the network of researchers working in the Environmental Physics Laboratory. Over the course of his career, he has collaborated with the Republic Hydrometeorological Service of Serbia, but he has also worked in various scientific and educational institutions in Serbia, Greece, Malta and Tunisia. In the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) he spent the period 2005-2013, working as a scientific consultant.

Working on dust particle modelling, Dr Ničković developed a new prognostic equation for aerosol concentration, which he integrated into the model for the numerical weather forecast. This discovery completely changed Dr Ničković’s career in the 1990s, the main reason being his model DREAM (the Dust Regional Atmospheric Model).

DREAM, as the first operational prognostic dust regional atmospheric model, was created by adding desert dust concentration, i.e. sand, as a prognostic variable, to one of the frequently applied models of the numerical weather forecast. ’This, so-called, online concept has made it possible for weather and dust forecast to be conducted simultaneously, within a single software system,’ Dr Ničković explains, detailing that internationally, it was the first successfully realized daily operative dust forecast. Nowadays, this concept is applied in numerous systems, and dust monitoring and forecast are important in preventing harmful consequences this aerosol can have on traffic, people’s health, the environment and agriculture.

Following several-year-long work at the World Meteorological Organization and involvement in the design and implementation of a global system for early warnings and forecasting of desert aerosol, Dr Ničković returned to Belgrade and gathered a group of researchers from several institutions, including the Institute of Physics. This group has worked on further advancement of modelling and dust observation, as well as analysis of its effect on the environment, climate and weather.

’Having in mind the ambitious scientific agenda dedicated to dust, as well as increased interest of the general public in this topic, the expansion of scientific capacities at the Institute of Physics and other involved organizations is a must,’ states Dr Ničković, contemplating the current state of human resources in dust research in Serbia.

The Plinius medal, awarded to Dr Ničković in 2022, was established by the Natural Hazards Division of the European Geosciences Union, and it draws its name from Roman natural history scientist and writer Pliny the Elder who lived in the 1st century AD. The medal is awarded to outstanding active scientists who meet some criteria such as outstanding research achievements in fields related to natural hazards, interdisciplinary activities and research that may be applied in the mitigation of risks from natural hazards.