On behalf of the Federal Office for the Environment, Empa oversees the National Air Pollution Monitoring Network. The measurements at 16 sites all across Switzerland aid early detection of problematic air pollutants and evaluation of the effectiveness of Swiss environmental policy.

NABEL measuring stations. Illustration: Empa

The quality of the air in Switzerland has improved considerably in recent decades as a result of a large number of measures. However, various immission levels are still too high, such as winter smog pollution, the ozone values in summer and excessive nitrogen contamination of forests and ecosystems. On the emissions side, particulate matter and climatically active gases are among the causes for concern.

For environmental protection authorities at all levels, it is therefore important to be able to measure current air pollution precisely and to monitor its development on the medium and long term. The National Air Pollution Monitoring Network (NABEL) was set up for this purpose. The project is jointly run by Empa and the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

16 measuring stations throughout Switzerland

The NABEL measurement network comprises 16 measuring stations distributed all throughout Switzerland. Their locations represent Switzerland’s most commonly occurring pollution situations. This enables a detailed impression of the air quality throughout the entire country to be obtained with a relatively small number of point measurements. For instance, NABEL stations are situated in large cities like Zurich, Basle, Berne and Lausanne VD, along major transport axes like in Härkingen SO and Payerne VD, in mountain towns like Davos GR and on peaks like Rigi SZ. Some of the stations are part of international measurement programmes, namely the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) and Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW).

Empa is responsible for operating NABEL as a public service. In addition, the programme is an important platform for research projects.