Air monitoring networks

Table of Contents

 

Monitoring networks of the Federal Länder

Up-to-date air quality data from the monitoring networks of the Federal Länder are available at the websites of the agencies responsible (in German). Questions concerning specific sites or data in the Länder can be answered there by qualified staff.

 

Measurement of long-range and transboundary air pollution

Air-borne pollutants are often imperceptible to the human senses. They are invisible yet always present in moving air masses. Some air pollutants occur in such low concentrations that they do not have any effect on humans or the environment. With others it takes a long time until their effects are manifest. In order to guarantee clean air for human beings and the environment or, where necessary, to improve air quality, experts regularly carry out measurements countrywide. The air monitoring networks operated by the German Federal Environment Agency and Germany's Länder fulfil different tasks.

The air monitoring network of the Federal Environment Agency ( Umweltbundesamt - UBA) operates measuring stations far away from densely populated areas and cities. Local sources of pollutants, such as industrial sites or power stations, should not affect the measurements. Situated in rural areas, the stations of the Federal Environment Agency measure the quality of air masses transported over long distances and across national frontiers.

Measurement of local air pollution

Unlike the UBA, Germany's Länder operate measuring stations in cities, in conurbations, in areas with high traffic density as well as in rural regions, in order to monitor and determine local and regional air quality.

Current pollution situation

The Federal Environment Agency brings together the air quality data from its own network and those of the Länder's networks. These data are used to provide, for each measured pollutant, maps showing the current air quality situation in all of Germany. This information is updated continuously.

Measuring values from individual stations with high air pollution levels are made available by the environment agencies of the Länder.

Information on measuring sites

Each air monitoring station in Germany (Federal or Länder) has a specific measuring programme and works with specific measuring instruments. Information both on stations currently in operation and on stations that are no longer operational is available at the Federal Environment Agency’s stations database.

 

Geographical location of UBA's monitoring sites

Air does not respect frontiers. Pollutants can be transported over hundreds of kilometres and influence air quality not only in their country of origin. Therefore, the Federal Republic of Germany co-operates with other countries in the framework of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) and further programmes in order to combat transboundary air pollution.

UBA's monitoring sites (from North to South):

  • Westerland in German
  • Zingst in German
  • Neuglobsow in German
  • Waldhof in German
  • Schmücke in German
  • Langen in German
  • Schauinsland in German
  • Zugspitze in German

Measurement of long-range air pollution

In order to check international activities and clean air strategies, the participating parties measure pollutant concentrations in air masses transported over long distances and across national frontiers. The analytical methods used are standardised internationally. These air quality data are gathered by international data centres and - together with emission and meteorological data - are used for computer modelling. Using these models, the origin, distribution, loads and sinks of air pollutants can be calculated. For example, the international control instrument under the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) is called EMEP (European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme). In this programme, more than one hundred stations in 25 countries measure transboundary air pollution.

Special task of the Federal Environment Agency

The measurements to which Germany has committed itself internationally are carried out by the Federal Environment Agency. Seven measuring stations, spread all over Germany, are operated for this purpose. In order to cover only such air masses that move over long distances and across national frontiers, these sites are as far away as possible from local sources of air pollution. Urban areas with heavy traffic, industry or heating installations should not affect the measurements.

Therefore, the monitoring network of the Federal Environment Agency differs fundamentally from those of the Federal Länder.

Monitoring network centre in Langen

Since 1998 the operations centre of the air monitoring network has been situated in Langen (Hesse), near Frankfurt/Main. This is where all data from the UBA’s measuring stations come together. Concentrations of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ozone are transferred on-line. They are published on the Internet shortly thereafter providing information on current pollution levels.

Particulate matter (dust) and rainwater (deposition) are analysed in laboratories situated at the Langen operations centre using plasma mass spectrometry, atomic absorption and atomic fluorescence spectrometry, gas chromatography and ion chromatography.

  • Measuring instruments and test gases are calibrated by the reference laboratory, also situated in Langen.

 

International monitoring programme

The German Federal Environment Agency ( UmweltbundesamtUBA) operates a wet-only deposition measurement network to monitor inputs of pollutants reaching soil, vegetation and surface water via precipitation (wet deposition). The stations are located in relatively unpolluted areas in Germany to measure deposition levels of air pollutants transported over long distances and across national borders. These measurements serve to monitor pollution over large areas and to verify the effectiveness of pollution abatement measures.

Weekly rainwater samples are collected at the 6 staffed UBA measuring stations as well as at 13 further locations in Germany. The samples are analysed in a central laboratory. Chemical and physical analysis covers the parameters sulphate, nitrate, ammonium, chloride, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium as well as pH value and conductivity.

UBA's deposition measurement network participates in the international UN/ECE EMEP programme, a scientifically based monitoring programme aiming to investigate long-range transboundary air pollution.

Monthly reports (in German)

Pdfs