Short-term variations in the atmospheric environment over polar regions are attracting increasing attention with respect to the reliable analysis of ozone loss. Balloon-borne remote sensing instruments with good vertical resolution and flexible sampling density can act as a prototype to overcome the potential technical challenges in the design of new spaceborne atmospheric sensors and represent a valuable tool for validating spaceborne observations. A multi-channel cryogenic heterodyne spectrometer known as the TErahertz and submillimeter LImb Sounder (TELIS) has been developed. It allows limb sounding of the upper troposphere and stratosphere (10–40 km) within the far infrared (FIR) and submillimeter spectral regimes. This paper describes and assesses the performance of the profile retrieval scheme for TELIS with a focus on the ozone (O3
), hydrogen chloride (HCl), carbon monoxide (CO), and hydroxyl radical (OH) measured during three northern polar campaigns in 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively. The corresponding inversion diagnostics reveal that some forward/instrument model parameters play important roles in the total retrieval error. The accuracy of the radiometric calibration and the spectroscopic knowledge has a significant impact on retrieval at higher altitudes, whereas the pointing accuracy dominates the total error at lower altitudes. The TELIS retrievals achieve a vertical resolution of ∼2–3 km through most of the stratosphere below the balloon height. Dominant water vapor (H2
O) contamination and low abundances of the target species reduce the retrieval sensitivity at the lowermost altitudes measured by TELIS. An extensive comparison shows that the TELIS profiles are consistent with profiles obtained by other limb sounders. The comparison appears to be very promising, except for discrepancies in the upper troposphere due to numerical regularization. This study not only consolidates the validity of balloon-borne TELIS FIR measurements, but also demonstrates the scientific relevance and technical feasibility of terahertz limb sounding of the stratosphere.
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