Ringelmann scale

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The Ringelmann scale is a scale for measuring the apparent density of Smoke. It was developed by Maximilien Ringelmann of La Station d'Essais de Machines in Paris in 1888. It has a 5 levels of density inferred from a grid of black lines on a white surface which, if viewed from a distance, merge into known shades of grey. There is no definitive chart, rather, Prof. Ringelmann provides a specification; where smoke level '0' is represented by white, levels '1' to '4' by 10mm square grids drawn with 1mm, 2.3mm, 3.7mm and 5.5 mm wide lines and level '5' by all black. A popular version is that published by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in circular 8333 of 1967. The British Standard version (BS2742:1969) alters Ringelmann's specification to give a chart similar, on modern paper with modern ink, to the probable appearance of charts produced on earlier, possibly darker, paper, with paler ink.

The data obtained has definite limitations. The apparent darkness of a smoke depends upon the concentration of the particulate matter in the effluent, the size of the particulate, the depth of the smoke column being viewed, and natural lighting conditions such as the direction of the sun relative to the observer while the accuracy of the chart itself depends on the whiteness of the paper and blackness of the ink used.

In use, the observer views the plume at the point of greatest opacity and determines the corresponding Ringelmann Number. A Ringlemann 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are equivalent to an opacity of 0, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100.[1]


  1. ^ Randolph, Karen; et al. (February 3, 2012). "Visible Emissions Field Manual EPA Methods 9 and 22" (PDF). United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 

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