Long-term Development of Air Quality 2020

Map Description


A single map consolidates all data collected by the Emissions Register since 1989, resulting in a detailed and complete representation of the long-term development of emissions in Berlin. During emissions calculations in 2015, the analysis of relevant polluters was extended significantly. This limits the comparability of emissions by heating systems with those measured in previous years. A new emissions report was drawn up to calculate emissions in 2015. In addition to the previous analysis of statistical parameters, this report includes a survey and considers a multitude of stakeholders. The final report (only in German) is available on the website of the Senate Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection.

The individual layers of Map 03.12.2 Long-Term Development of Air Quality – Emissions, grouped into pollutants and polluter groups, illustrate which polluters account for the largest share of emissions of each parameter and in which areas of Berlin.

Analysis of the long-term development of air quality

  • Since 1989, all emissions have been greatly reduced, with reductions of between 73 % for nitrogen oxide and 96 % for sulphur dioxide. PM10 emissions dropped by 86 % over this period.
  • The total amount of all industrial plants requiring a permit has decreased significantly since 1989. This decrease can be explained by plant closures based on the changed political and economic situation and by a change in legal regulations regarding mandatory permits for many of the smaller plants. The emissions of these plants have since then either been assigned the domestic heating or small business source group. Regarding plants requiring a permit (industry) in the State of Berlin, both heat and energy production, and the food and beverages industries are main causes of NOx (cf. AVISO 2016, p.23).
Link to: Vergrößern
Tab.1: Types and numbers of plants and auxiliary plants requiring a permit in Berlin, 1989 to 2016
Image: Umweltatlas Berlin
  • In the area of domestic heating, which covers not only apartments, but also small business incl. doctors’ practices, lawyers’ offices etc., an impressive decrease in emissions has been achieved, thanks to an increase in pipeline-based energy sources, instead of the formerly predominant brown coal. This is especially obvious with regard to the former lead parameter for air pollution, sulphur dioxide (SO2). The energy-oriented rehabilitation of the old building stock, sponsored by the State of Berlin since 1990 in an exemplary manner, has contributed to this considerably. With regard to the spatial distribution structure of the emissions from heating systems not requiring a permit (domestic heating, small business), a similar picture emerges for the pollutants NOx, PM10 and PM2.5: the highest emission densities occur in Berlin’s city centre, i.e. in the boroughs of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Pankow (cf. AVISO 2016, p.81).
  • Meanwhile, traffic is the main cause of nitrogen oxide. In 2015, road traffic alone accounted for more than 37 % of the nitrogen oxide emissions in Berlin, while industrial plants caused less than 36 % of the total of these emissions. Since the pollution emitted by road traffic enters the atmosphere close to the ground (or “close to the nose”), it contributes greatly to air pollution (further information: nitrogen dioxide, only in German).
Link to: Vergrößern
Tab. 2: Emissions in Berlin by polluter groups, 1989 to 2015
Image: Umweltatlas Berlin

The particulate emissions from the exhausts of motor vehicles, which are a health hazard, have decreased by more than 90% between 1989 and 2015. One reason for this was the introduction of the environmental zone that included particulate filters, which resulted in a reduction in soot particles. This figure matches the diesel exhaust particulates measured in urban canyons, the main component of particulate emissions from exhausts. The measured concentration of diesel exhaust particulates at Measuring Container 174 of the Berlin Clean Air Measurement Network BLUME on Frankfurter Allee in the borough of Friedrichshain hence dropped by more than 50% during the period 2000-2015 (cf. also the analysis of Map 03.12.1, Station 174).

However, since particulate emissions from tyre abrasion and resuspension caused by road traffic have been reduced far less over these 20 years than emissions caused by combustion processes, motor vehicle traffic remains the second most important source of particulate emissions in Berlin, surpassed only by the category “other sources”. Motor vehicle traffic, including abrasion and resuspension, accounted for a share of 24 % of the PM10 emissions in Berlin in 2015, while the other sources accounted for 50 %. In the case of PM2.5, the figures were 26 % and 45 %, respectively.

The atmospheric pollution load caused by road traffic in the inner-city area, where some 1 million inhabitants live in an area of approx. 100 km2, is relatively high. Especially here, the problems of space utilization and competition for a growing road traffic volume will increase, if current trend conditions continue. Particularly, road transport of goods will, given unchanged conditions, meet increasing capacity limits in road space.

For further information on the different types of emission, click here (only in German).


Nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are measured at all measurement stations (using the chemiluminescence procedure), dust of the PM10 and PM2.5 fraction at twelve stations (by measuring the scattering of light by dust particles, ozone at eight stations (through absorption of UV radiation), carbon monoxide at two stations (through absorption of infrared radiation) and benzene at two stations (through gas chromatography). As of June 1, 2020, SO2 is no longer measured using the reference method, as SO2 levels have decreased dramatically over the last 30 years and the levels recorded in the last few years were below the detection limit of the reference measurement method to a large extent. According to the 39th BImSchV, the obligation to measure SO2 does therefore no longer apply. Heavy metals and benzo(a)pyrene were additionally determined in the PM10 fraction at two or four measurement stations, respectively.

The stations are distributed around the city in such a way that various spatial effect factors can be ascertained. Of the 17 stations, seven are located along heavily travelled streets, five are in inner-city areas (both residential and commercial) and five are at the periphery of the city or in forest areas.

The staff of the Berlin Air Quality Monitoring Network analyse the samples collected at the 23 RUBIS sites at a laboratory and determine the benzene and soot levels. In addition, passive collectors are used at these 23 locations and at 21 further locations to determine nitrogen dioxide levels and, in some cases, nitrogen oxide levels. These devices collect samples over a period of 14 days, which are then analysed at a laboratory. This manually generated laboratory data is only published as annual means in the annual mean reports due to the delay between measurements and results caused by analysis, as well as their long measurement intervals.

Every weekday at 12 midday the measured values of the previous day, which are automatically determined by the measurement containers, are sent to several newspapers and radio and TV stations for public broadcast. Additionally, the data is published daily on the Internet, and can be accessed there under Tageswerte des BLUME-Messnetz (“Daily values of the BLUME measurement network”; only in German). In the case of increased ozone concentrations in the city, this information is broadcast to the public by some radio stations. As mentioned above, the separate website “Berliner Luftgütemessnetz” (Berlin Air Quality Measurement Network) offers a comprehensive range of data and analyses.

Monthly and annual reports, which, in addition to an evaluation of the preceding measurement period, also contain site tables of the measurement stations and an overview of limit and target values, are also available online (only in German).

The results of the measurements of the last years allow the following conclusions to be drawn:

  • Compared with the 1970s and ’80s, the atmospheric burden of most air pollutants has been reduced by orders of magnitude. Thus, for example, sulphur dioxide concentrations have been reduced by > 90 %, and under no circumstances exceed the EU limit values for immissions.
    With regard to PM10, the situation has improved significantly compared to the years at the beginning of this century. However, the PM10 burden strongly depends on the meteorological conditions of propagation. In particular, high pressure conditions in winter with low southerly to easterly winds lead to a high accumulation of PM10 particulates in the air in the Berlin area, some of which are brought to Berlin by long-distance transport and some of which originate from sources within the city, primarily road traffic and domestic heating. In the years with worse exchange conditions, such as 2009-2011 and also 2014, the annual mean PM10 concentrations were slightly higher, whereas in the years with better exchange conditions, such as 2007 and 2008 as well as 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019, they were correspondingly lower. The annual mean concentrations of PM10 for 2019 detected at the stations of the automatic monitoring network were 16-17 µg/m³ in the suburbs, 18-19 µg/m³ in inner-city areas and 21-24 µg/m³ along heavily travelled streets. Therefore, the annual mean limit was not exceeded even at the measuring point with the highest load. Also the RUBIS measurements for 2019 did not find evidence of limit exceedances for PM10 in urban canyons. Also, the short-term limit value for PM10 (the daily mean must not exceed the value of 50 µg/m³ more than 35 times a year per measurement station) was not exceeded at any measuring point in 2019.
  • However, there are still substances which regularly exceed the limits. Especially NO2, whose annual means were between 34 and 43 µg/m³ on roads in 2019. The limit of the 39th BlmSchV (40 µg/m³), effective since 2010, was thus only exceeded at the Karl-Marx-Straße measuring point. The values for near-ground ozone (only in German) also exceeded the EU-wide target of 25 days per calendar year at the most with a maximum 8-hour value of above 25 µg/m³, averaged over the last 3 years. With 26 µg/m³, this target was exceeded at two stations on the periphery of the city. Since January 1, 2010, this target has to be met as far as possible.
  • Improvements of the air quality have to do with many components. The de-industrialization of Berlin, the modernization of plants, the use of catalytic converters in vehicles, and the changeover to more low-emission heating fuels had an impact.

The detailed, always current overview and compilation of the quality of Berlin’s air is provided online here (only in German).

But since immissions are also influenced by supra-regional effects and weather events, an analysis of causes cannot be only local, but rather must also investigate the immission of pollutants from outside, including cross-border transportation (cf. again Berlin Clean Air Plan 2011-2017).

For the present Map 03.12.1 Long-Term Development of Air Quality – Immissions, all available data collected in the measurement programmes described over the past 40 years was compiled and prepared statistically and graphically with regard to the measurement year. For spatial distribution of current and former measurement stations and measurement points, the following data can be accessed for each station:

  • address
  • type of station
  • description of neighbourhood (including photos)
  • coordinates
  • measurement parameters
  • period of measurement
  • measured values (as diagrams and as EXCEL tables).

The stations are divided into the categories traffic, residential area, industrial, suburban, and meteorological stations.

A total of 189 measurement stations are presented, of which 59 are still in operation (17 BLUME measurement containers, and 23 RUBIS measurement points. In 2021, 42 passive collectors (23 of which are located at RUBIS monitoring points), will be added to the database (as of December 2020).

For the graphic representation of the development of the parameters total dust, particulate matter (PM10), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen monoxide (NO), carbon monoxide (CO), benzene and ozone (O3), the following limit and target values were referred to, which serve the purposes of health protection, unless otherwise stated:

Tab. 3: Limit and target values for selected air pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, NOx, CO, benzene and ozone, cadmium, nickel, benzo(a)pyrene and lead)
Tab. 3: Limit and target values for selected air pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, NOx, CO, benzene and ozone, cadmium, nickel, benzo(a)pyrene and lead)
Image: Umweltatlas Berlin
The average exposure indicator (AEI) was defined to measure the population’s exposure to PM2.5 in the urban background. Based on PM2.5 levels recorded at relevant measurement stations over a three-year period, the indicator is calculated for each EU member state individually yielding an annual moving average. The average spanning the years 2008 to 2010 was defined as the AEI for 2010 (reference year), which was 16.4 µg/m³. Based on the AEI 2010, a national target to reduce PM2.5 by 15 % by 2020 has been set in accordance with the 39th BImSchV. Therefore, the AEI 2020 (average from 2018 to 2020) must not exceed 13.9 µg/m³.

This overview provides further statutory limit and target values for air quality (only in German).