We assess the quality of the version 2.2 (v2.2) HNO3 measurements from the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) on the Earth Observing System Aura satellite. The MLS HNO3 product has been greatly improved over that in the previous version (v1.5), with smoother profiles, much more realistic behavior at the lowest retrieval levels, and correction of a high bias caused by an error in one of the spectroscopy files used in v1.5 processing. The v2.2 HNO3 data are scientifically useful over the range 215 to 3.2 hPa, with single-profile precision of similar to 0.7 ppbv throughout. Vertical resolution is 3-4 km in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, degrading to similar to 5 km in the middle and upper stratosphere. The impact of various sources of systematic uncertainty has been quantified through a comprehensive set of retrieval simulations. In aggregate, systematic uncertainties are estimated to induce in the v2.2 HNO3 measurements biases that vary with altitude between +/- 0.5 and +/- 2 ppbv and multiplicative errors of +/- 5-15% throughout the stratosphere, rising to similar to +/- 30% at 215 hPa. Consistent with this uncertainty analysis, comparisons with correlative data sets show that relative to HNO3 measurements from ground- based, balloon- borne, and satellite instruments operating in both the infrared and microwave regions of the spectrum, MLS v2.2 HNO3 mixing ratios are uniformly low by 10-30% throughout most of the stratosphere. Comparisons with in situ measurements made from the DC-8 and WB-57 aircraft in the upper troposphere and lowermost stratosphere indicate that the MLS HNO3 values are low in this region as well, but are useful for scientific studies (with appropriate averaging).
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