• water vapor;
  • nitrous oxide;
  • long-lived tracers;
  • validation;
  • intercomparison;
  • Aura MLS

[1] The quality of the version 2.2 (v2.2) middle atmosphere water vapor and nitrous oxide measurements from the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) on the Earth Observing System (EOS) Aura satellite is assessed. The impacts of the various sources of systematic error are estimated by a comprehensive set of retrieval simulations. Comparisons with correlative data sets from ground-based, balloon and satellite platforms operating in the UV/visible, infrared and microwave regions of the spectrum are performed. Precision estimates are also validated, and recommendations are given on the data usage. The v2.2 H2O data have been improved over v1.5 by providing higher vertical resolution in the lower stratosphere and better precision above the stratopause. The single-profile precision is ∼0.2–0.3 ppmv (4–9%), and the vertical resolution is ∼3–4 km in the stratosphere. The precision and vertical resolution become worse with increasing height above the stratopause. Over the pressure range 0.1–0.01 hPa the precision degrades from 0.4 to 1.1 ppmv (6–34%), and the vertical resolution degrades to ∼12–16 km. The accuracy is estimated to be 0.2–0.5 ppmv (4–11%) for the pressure range 68–0.01 hPa. The scientifically useful range of the H2O data is from 316 to 0.002 hPa, although only the 82–0.002 hPa pressure range is validated here. Substantial improvement has been achieved in the v2.2 N2O data over v1.5 by reducing a significant low bias in the stratosphere and eliminating unrealistically high biased mixing ratios in the polar regions. The single-profile precision is ∼13–25 ppbv (7–38%), the vertical resolution is ∼4–6 km and the accuracy is estimated to be 3–70 ppbv (9–25%) for the pressure range 100–4.6 hPa. The scientifically useful range of the N2O data is from 100 to 1 hPa.